Social awakening

 

Social awakening

Occupy social consciousness
by Chris Zaporoski

 
speaker
Common Ground publisher speaks at Occupy Vancouver October 15, 2011. Photo by Patrik Parkes.

On a warm Friday night several weeks ago, I was sitting on a bench at English Bay, watching the stars shoot through the late summer sky. Many people were out that night – mature people strolling after dinner, romantic couples on the benches and, as usual, youth hanging out on the beach. I could hear distant conversations and people’s laughter. It was a nice relaxing end to another workweek. I checked the time – it was just past 10:30 PM.

Suddenly, flashing lights lit up the whole scene in front of me. Surprised, I turned my head to see a police car pulling quietly onto the main pathway leading to the beach. The car continued until it reached the seawall and then stopped. A group of elegantly dressed older men and women strolled by, obviously enjoying their seawall walk after dinner while the police car sat in the middle of the pathway with its emergency lights flashing. It was a bizarre, almost surreal scene. The quiet was broken by a voice coming from the car’s loudspeaker: “This is the Vancouver Police. This beach is now closed.”

I was stunned. There was nothing going on that could possibly explain that police car and the given order. There were no rowdy, drunken teenagers, no public disturbance and no noise. “What is that all about?” I asked my girlfriend who was equally as shocked. Thoughts were flashing through my head, but one kept repeating itself and I voiced it. “This sounds like a curfew.”

A curfew on Vancouver’s beaches?

The last time I experienced a curfew was some 30-years-ago during the martial law in Poland. The communist regime declared martial law to crack down on the nation-wide social revolt led by the Solidarity movement. Back then, I felt it was my duty and moral obligation to take a stand against the totalitarian regime in defence of what I believed to be fundamental human rights: the right to freedom, justice, truth and basic dignity. Because of my beliefs, I spent nearly a year in jail and stood trial by a military court. After the amnesty, as an “unwanted element,” I was allowed to leave the country with a one-way passport. This is how I arrived in Canada in search of freedom.

And here I was now in the heart of Vancouver’s peaceful West End, experiencing a curfew. But the most bizarre thing is that hardly anyone questions it, as if it were “normal.” Normal? Adult people are told to go home because of someone’s insane order not to allow the public on their own (public) beaches. If the police mandate is “to serve and protect,” my question is who are they serving and protecting?

As adults, we tend to lose the capacity to ask questions and challenge the status quo. When insanity becomes the norm, hardly anyone sees it as insanity. To most of us, it becomes “normal.” So here we are in the middle of Vancouver experiencing glimpses of what it would feel like to live in a totalitarian state.

The concept of totalitarianism was invented by Italian fascists. Some readers might object to the word “fascism” applied to the reality of socio-political life in today’s North America, but, as Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” Doesn’t it sound exactly like the world we live in?

sign bearer on wall street
Occupy Wall Street (NYC) demonstrator. Photo by David Shankbone

Upon my arrival in North America, my first culture shock was linguistic. It wasn’t the language itself, but the idiom used to describe the worth of a person, such as “Bob is worth two million.” It was shocking to me that someone’s worth could be measured in dollars rather than in qualities like kindness, goodness, wisdom, talent, intelligence or their service to others. Hence, a millionaire is worth a million dollars, while a homeless person, for instance, is worth… I guess, nothing. Think about the social implications of that way of thinking. Someone might dismiss it as a purely linguistic phenomenon, but it is not just a “figure of speech.” The words and phrases we use reflect our definitions and our beliefs, which create our understanding of the world and determine our behaviour.

Human behaviour is governed by motivation. If we measure our worth by the status of our bank account and by how many possessions we have, those who are rich are “worthy” while the poor are simply “worthless.” If the only measure of one’s worth is the amount of accumulated money, in order to obtain that goal, anything goes. In a system where profit is the paramount motivation, one cannot help but see the world around them as a potential source of profit. People, animals, resources, our entire planet, are reduced to nothing more than a means to an end to be exploited for profit. Isn’t that what is happening?

The Earth is being raped, resources plundered and animals are exploited or exterminated. The majority of humanity lives in poverty and we who are lucky enough to live in a developed country are reduced to mere consumers, required only to perpetually feed the hungry ghost of profit.

My second culture shock came some 15-years-ago when I decided to end my corporate career. The reason was simple: I just couldn’t imagine sacrificing my dreams any longer in exchange for a steady pay cheque and the illusion of security. I was surprised at how many of my co-workers approached me, saying, “I wish I could do the same.” “Why don’t you?” I asked. But each of them had an excuse: debt, a mortgage, car payments, a benefits package or some other form of perceived benefit.

Shocked by how many people wished they could do the same, I was hit by the realization that they were slaves. Completely unaware, they were participating in the most subtle form of slavery – an economic slavery. And they always had a valid reason for accepting it as “normal.” After all, those jobs seemed to be guaranteed for a lifetime and based on that assumption, people planned their future. Fortunately, the reality check came a mere few years later. The company was sold and resold through a series of bizarre financial schemes involving billions of dollars and, eventually, the new corporate owner decided to outsource the work of the entire department to Asia. All of my former co-workers, including those who had spent decades creating profits for the company, were “not needed anymore” and lost their jobs.

This story is repeated throughout Canada, North America and the world. This is the world we live in. This is the world we have all created. Not “them” but all of us. It is not the creation of some conspiracy group; we all participate in this collective insanity. But the more insanity we encounter, the more wake up calls we experience. Some of them come from our own country. In 2003, the brilliant Canadian documentary The Corporation exposed the nature of corporations as destructive, psychopathic, socio-economic phenomena. The most recent CBC Doc Zone production dealing with the subject of the economic meltdown is entitled simply Meltdown and it takes it even further. More powerful and insightful than the Oscar-wining, highly acclaimed Inside Job, Meltdown exposes the global scale of the insanity. And of course, there is Michael Moore with his exposés.

As a human race, we are just beginning to wake up. Occupy Wall Street started the Occupy Movement, which is now spreading globally, offering glimpses of sanity and hope for the future. Some call it a “revolution,” but for those, I have a word of warning. Revolution means revolving, or turning around the wheel of power. It is the same old wheel of power, with someone on top and someone on the bottom. This is why every revolution throughout human history eventually led to the same outcome – the oppression of one by another. Ideologies change, but the mechanism of the power struggle remains intact; the once powerless become powerful and vice versa.

There are also angry voices demanding “justice” as if putting a few bankers in jail could solve the root cause of the problem. Common criminals, no matter what the colours of their collars, ought to be held accountable for their crimes, yet for those who advocate the idea of vengeance, remember the words of Gandhi, the greatest leader of non-violent civil disobedience in the history of mankind: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” And indeed we are blind if we don’t see the insanity of repeating the same old patterns of unconscious behaviour. Noam Chomsky once said, “It’s a fair assumption that every human being, real human beings, flesh and blood ones, not corporations, but every flesh and blood human being is a moral person. You know, we’ve got the same genes, we’re more or less the same, but our nature, the nature of humans, allows all kinds of behaviour. I mean, every one of us under some circumstances could be a gas chamber attendant or a saint.”

It is easy to be angry, point fingers and seek vengeance. It is much harder to see the reality of the problem. Those “circumstances” Chomsky talks about are nothing more than our collective agreement on what is acceptable and what is not. Such a collective agreement allowed for the creation of monstrosities such as the Third Reich and the Holocaust. The same collective agreement allows for the existence of the current system. No matter how corrupt and abused our democracy is, it is still democracy. We live in a democratic society. It’s not “us” versus “them,” but we are all responsible because we allowed the corruption and abuse to exist. Our individual and collective compliance allows for the insanity to perpetuate itself. Our silence and obedience are the true measures of our passive participation. They show the level of our unconsciousness.

How unconscious we can become is best portrayed by Robert Maresca and his wife Diane of West Islip, New York, who just applied to the US Patent and Trademark office to trademark the “Occupy Wall Street” slogan. Their intent is to sell sweatshirts, T-shirts, bumper stickers, among other merchandise. According to CNN, Maresca said, “I’m no marketing genius, but when you got something that’s across 50 states, it’s a brand now.” He even offered to sell the trademark to Occupy Wall Street members, if they wanted it, for just one dollar, after they paid his expenses. The problem is that neither the Marescas nor their lawyer sees anything wrong with that. While people at Wall Street stand up for justice, freedom and human dignity, others are trying to make a buck on it. This is how corrupt in unconsciousness our own minds can become.

On October 25, in a violent crackdown of Occupy Oakland by riot police, Scott Olsen, a young ex-marine, was the most seriously injured. The man survived two tours in Iraq and returned home safely only to be shot in the head with a police projectile in his own country, by his own police. The incident that followed shortly afterward is even more appalling. As Scott lay bleeding and motionless on the ground, video footage clearly shows that, while other protesters rushed in to help Scott, a policeman from behind a barrier deliberately threw a flash or tear gas grenade into the crowd near the injured man. This is beyond comprehension – an act of psychopathic insanity that calls for a public outcry. It is no wonder none of the mainstream US news agencies covered the story, but it made headlines around the world.

At the same time, Scott’s fellow US Marine posted a photo of himself on the Washington Post’s blog site, holding a picture of the bleeding man with a sign bearing the symbol for the US Marines and the words: “You did this to my brother.”

I believe it is the insanity of the government itself and its “law” enforcement agencies that invite revolution, through committing acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators who exercise their fundamental rights, promised and guaranteed by the Constitution.

Let’s all pray for Scott Olsen’s safe recovery and send him our love. And kudos to Keith Olbermann and his Countdown on Current TV. Olbermann is the only American high-profile journalist who, from the very beginning, covered the Occupy Movement. See his daily program at http://www.youtube.com/user/Current

The alternative to revolution is evolution. It is growth through transformation, exactly what humanity needs – to leave behind the old dysfunctional patterns and structures and evolve to the new level of consciousness. And that’s what the Occupy Movement represents to me. It is our chance to change the way we do things, an experiment in real democracy. Michael Moore frequently visited and addressed Occupy Wall Street. When asked what advice he had for the people down there, he said, “I don’t have any advice. I’d rather listen.”

This is real democracy at work. No more political parties, lobby groups and leaders manipulating masses and swaying opinions one way or another, but the system allowing for every voice to be heard. No more pushing one’s agenda on others, but an open discussion and consensus. It is the way of the future.

In the first weeks of Occupy Wall Street, Deepak Chopra was allowed to address the General Assembly. Instead of making political speeches, he invited everyone to do a short meditation. I now invite you, dear reader, to participate in the meditation he led: “Put your hand on your heart and just ask yourself internally, ‘What kind of world do I want to live in?’ And listen. Do it now. And now ask yourself, ‘How can I make that happen. How can I make that happen from the place of love, compassion, joy and equanimity?’ Simple anger will only perpetuate what already is out there. It was created by greed and fear. We have to go beyond that and come from the place of compassion, centred equanimity and creativity. Once again, ask yourself, ‘How can I be the change I want to see in the world?’”

 

 

Social awakening – Occupy social consciousness

by Chris Zaporoski

Common Ground publisher speaks at Occupy Vancouver October 15, 2011. Photo by Patrik Parkes.

On a warm Friday night several weeks ago, I was sitting on a bench at English Bay, watching the stars shoot through the late summer sky. Many people were out that night – mature people strolling after dinner, romantic couples on the benches and, as usual, youth hanging out on the beach. I could hear distant conversations and people’s laughter. It was a nice relaxing end to another workweek. I checked the time – it was just past 10:30 PM.

Suddenly, flashing lights lit up the whole scene in front of me. Surprised, I turned my head to see a police car pulling quietly onto the main pathway leading to the beach. The car continued until it reached the seawall and then stopped. A group of elegantly dressed older men and women strolled by, obviously enjoying their seawall walk after dinner while the police car sat in the middle of the pathway with its emergency lights flashing. It was a bizarre, almost surreal scene. The quiet was broken by a voice coming from the car’s loudspeaker: “This is the Vancouver Police. This beach is now closed.”

I was stunned. There was nothing going on that could possibly explain that police car and the given order. There were no rowdy, drunken teenagers, no public disturbance and no noise. “What is that all about?” I asked my girlfriend who was equally as shocked. Thoughts were flashing through my head, but one kept repeating itself and I voiced it. “This sounds like a curfew.”

A curfew on Vancouver’s beaches?

The last time I experienced a curfew was some 30-years-ago during the martial law in Poland. The communist regime declared martial law to crack down on the nation-wide social revolt led by the Solidarity movement. Back then, I felt it was my duty and moral obligation to take a stand against the totalitarian regime in defence of what I believed to be fundamental human rights: the right to freedom, justice, truth and basic dignity. Because of my beliefs, I spent nearly a year in jail and stood trial by a military court. After the amnesty, as an “unwanted element,” I was allowed to leave the country with a one-way passport. This is how I arrived in Canada in search of freedom.

And here I was now in the heart of Vancouver’s peaceful West End, experiencing a curfew. But the most bizarre thing is that hardly anyone questions it, as if it were “normal.” Normal? Adult people are told to go home because of someone’s insane order not to allow the public on their own (public) beaches. If the police mandate is “to serve and protect,” my question is who are they serving and protecting?

As adults, we tend to lose the capacity to ask questions and challenge the status quo. When insanity becomes the norm, hardly anyone sees it as insanity. To most of us, it becomes “normal.” So here we are in the middle of Vancouver experiencing glimpses of what it would feel like to live in a totalitarian state.

The concept of totalitarianism was invented by Italian fascists. Some readers might object to the word “fascism” applied to the reality of socio-political life in today’s North America, but, as Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” Doesn’t it sound exactly like the world we live in?

sign bearer on wall street
Occupy Wall Street (NYC) demonstrator. Photo by David Shankbone

Upon my arrival in North America, my first culture shock was linguistic. It wasn’t the language itself, but the idiom used to describe the worth of a person, such as “Bob is worth two million.” It was shocking to me that someone’s worth could be measured in dollars rather than in qualities like kindness, goodness, wisdom, talent, intelligence or their service to others. Hence, a millionaire is worth a million dollars, while a homeless person, for instance, is worth… I guess, nothing. Think about the social implications of that way of thinking. Someone might dismiss it as a purely linguistic phenomenon, but it is not just a “figure of speech.” The words and phrases we use reflect our definitions and our beliefs, which create our understanding of the world and determine our behaviour.

Human behaviour is governed by motivation. If we measure our worth by the status of our bank account and by how many possessions we have, those who are rich are “worthy” while the poor are simply “worthless.” If the only measure of one’s worth is the amount of accumulated money, in order to obtain that goal, anything goes. In a system where profit is the paramount motivation, one cannot help but see the world around them as a potential source of profit. People, animals, resources, our entire planet, are reduced to nothing more than a means to an end to be exploited for profit. Isn’t that what is happening?

The Earth is being raped, resources plundered and animals are exploited or exterminated. The majority of humanity lives in poverty and we who are lucky enough to live in a developed country are reduced to mere consumers, required only to perpetually feed the hungry ghost of profit.

My second culture shock came some 15-years-ago when I decided to end my corporate career. The reason was simple: I just couldn’t imagine sacrificing my dreams any longer in exchange for a steady pay cheque and the illusion of security. I was surprised at how many of my co-workers approached me, saying, “I wish I could do the same.” “Why don’t you?” I asked. But each of them had an excuse: debt, a mortgage, car payments, a benefits package or some other form of perceived benefit.

Shocked by how many people wished they could do the same, I was hit by the realization that they were slaves. Completely unaware, they were participating in the most subtle form of slavery – an economic slavery. And they always had a valid reason for accepting it as “normal.” After all, those jobs seemed to be guaranteed for a lifetime and based on that assumption, people planned their future. Fortunately, the reality check came a mere few years later. The company was sold and resold through a series of bizarre financial schemes involving billions of dollars and, eventually, the new corporate owner decided to outsource the work of the entire department to Asia. All of my former co-workers, including those who had spent decades creating profits for the company, were “not needed anymore” and lost their jobs.

This story is repeated throughout Canada, North America and the world. This is the world we live in. This is the world we have all created. Not “them” but all of us. It is not the creation of some conspiracy group; we all participate in this collective insanity. But the more insanity we encounter, the more wake up calls we experience. Some of them come from our own country. In 2003, the brilliant Canadian documentary The Corporation exposed the nature of corporations as destructive, psychopathic, socio-economic phenomena. The most recent CBC Doc Zone production dealing with the subject of the economic meltdown is entitled simply Meltdown and it takes it even further. More powerful and insightful than the Oscar-wining, highly acclaimed Inside Job, Meltdown exposes the global scale of the insanity. And of course, there is Michael Moore with his exposés.

As a human race, we are just beginning to wake up. Occupy Wall Street started the Occupy Movement, which is now spreading globally, offering glimpses of sanity and hope for the future. Some call it a “revolution,” but for those, I have a word of warning. Revolution means revolving, or turning around the wheel of power. It is the same old wheel of power, with someone on top and someone on the bottom. This is why every revolution throughout human history eventually led to the same outcome – the oppression of one by another. Ideologies change, but the mechanism of the power struggle remains intact; the once powerless become powerful and vice versa.

There are also angry voices demanding “justice” as if putting a few bankers in jail could solve the root cause of the problem. Common criminals, no matter what the colours of their collars, ought to be held accountable for their crimes, yet for those who advocate the idea of vengeance, remember the words of Gandhi, the greatest leader of non-violent civil disobedience in the history of mankind: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” And indeed we are blind if we don’t see the insanity of repeating the same old patterns of unconscious behaviour. Noam Chomsky once said, “It’s a fair assumption that every human being, real human beings, flesh and blood ones, not corporations, but every flesh and blood human being is a moral person. You know, we’ve got the same genes, we’re more or less the same, but our nature, the nature of humans, allows all kinds of behaviour. I mean, every one of us under some circumstances could be a gas chamber attendant or a saint.”

It is easy to be angry, point fingers and seek vengeance. It is much harder to see the reality of the problem. Those “circumstances” Chomsky talks about are nothing more than our collective agreement on what is acceptable and what is not. Such a collective agreement allowed for the creation of monstrosities such as the Third Reich and the Holocaust. The same collective agreement allows for the existence of the current system. No matter how corrupt and abused our democracy is, it is still democracy. We live in a democratic society. It’s not “us” versus “them,” but we are all responsible because we allowed the corruption and abuse to exist. Our individual and collective compliance allows for the insanity to perpetuate itself. Our silence and obedience are the true measures of our passive participation. They show the level of our unconsciousness.

How unconscious we can become is best portrayed by Robert Maresca and his wife Diane of West Islip, New York, who just applied to the US Patent and Trademark office to trademark the “Occupy Wall Street” slogan. Their intent is to sell sweatshirts, T-shirts, bumper stickers, among other merchandise. According to CNN, Maresca said, “I’m no marketing genius, but when you got something that’s across 50 states, it’s a brand now.” He even offered to sell the trademark to Occupy Wall Street members, if they wanted it, for just one dollar, after they paid his expenses. The problem is that neither the Marescas nor their lawyer sees anything wrong with that. While people at Wall Street stand up for justice, freedom and human dignity, others are trying to make a buck on it. This is how corrupt in unconsciousness our own minds can become.

On October 25, in a violent crackdown of Occupy Oakland by riot police, Scott Olsen, a young ex-marine, was the most seriously injured. The man survived two tours in Iraq and returned home safely only to be shot in the head with a police projectile in his own country, by his own police. The incident that followed shortly afterward is even more appalling. As Scott lay bleeding and motionless on the ground, video footage clearly shows that, while other protesters rushed in to help Scott, a policeman from behind a barrier deliberately threw a flash or tear gas grenade into the crowd near the injured man. This is beyond comprehension – an act of psychopathic insanity that calls for a public outcry. It is no wonder none of the mainstream US news agencies covered the story, but it made headlines around the world.

At the same time, Scott’s fellow US Marine posted a photo of himself on the Washington Post’s blog site, holding a picture of the bleeding man with a sign bearing the symbol for the US Marines and the words: “You did this to my brother.”

I believe it is the insanity of the government itself and its “law” enforcement agencies that invite revolution, through committing acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators who exercise their fundamental rights, promised and guaranteed by the Constitution.

Let’s all pray for Scott Olsen’s safe recovery and send him our love. And kudos to Keith Olbermann and his Countdown on Current TV. Olbermann is the only American high-profile journalist who, from the very beginning, covered the Occupy Movement. See his daily program at http://www.youtube.com/user/Current

The alternative to revolution is evolution. It is growth through transformation, exactly what humanity needs – to leave behind the old dysfunctional patterns and structures and evolve to the new level of consciousness. And that’s what the Occupy Movement represents to me. It is our chance to change the way we do things, an experiment in real democracy. Michael Moore frequently visited and addressed Occupy Wall Street. When asked what advice he had for the people down there, he said, “I don’t have any advice. I’d rather listen.”

This is real democracy at work. No more political parties, lobby groups and leaders manipulating masses and swaying opinions one way or another, but the system allowing for every voice to be heard. No more pushing one’s agenda on others, but an open discussion and consensus. It is the way of the future.

In the first weeks of Occupy Wall Street, Deepak Chopra was allowed to address the General Assembly. Instead of making political speeches, he invited everyone to do a short meditation. I now invite you, dear reader, to participate in the meditation he led: “Put your hand on your heart and just ask yourself internally, ‘What kind of world do I want to live in?’ And listen. Do it now. And now ask yourself, ‘How can I make that happen. How can I make that happen from the place of love, compassion, joy and equanimity?’ Simple anger will only perpetuate what already is out there. It was created by greed and fear. We have to go beyond that and come from the place of compassion, centred equanimity and creativity. Once again, ask yourself, ‘How can I be the change I want to see in the world?’”

Wall Street conversation

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

I’m not the only one unhappy with economic systems based on constant growth and endlessly increasing exploitation of finite resources – systems that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few while so many people struggle.

Beginning on September 17, protests spread from New York to a growing number of cities across the United States, Europe and Canada, in a movement dubbed “Occupy Wall Street.” It’s interesting that those credited with spurring the movement did so with a single question: “What is our one demand?” The question was first posed in my hometown of Vancouver by Adbusters magazine. Editor Kalle Lasn said the campaign was launched as an invitation to act more than an attempt to get an answer. Focusing on a single demand may or may not be a useful exercise, but the conversation itself is necessary.

Why have governments spent trillions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to bail out financial institutions, many of which fought any notion of government regulation or social assistance while doing nothing for people who had life savings wiped out or lost homes through foreclosure? And why have governments not at least demanded that the institutions demonstrate some ecological and social responsibility in return?

Why do developed nations still give tax breaks to the wealthiest few while children go hungry and working people and the unemployed see wages, benefits and opportunities dwindle? Why are we rapidly exploiting finite resources and destroying precious natural systems for the sake of short-term profit and unsustainable economic growth?

Why does our economic system place a higher value on disposable and often unnecessary goods and services than on the things we really need to survive and be healthy, like clean air, clean water and productive soil? Sure, there’s some contradiction in protesters carrying iPhones while railing against the consumer system. But this is not just about making personal changes and sacrifices; it’s about questioning our place on this planet.

In less than a century, the human population has grown exponentially, from 1.5 to seven billion. That’s been matched by rapid growth in technology and products, resource exploitation and knowledge. The pace and manner of development have led to a reliance on fossil fuels, to the extent that much of our infrastructure supports products such as cars and their fuels.

It may seem like there’s no hope for change, but we have to remember that most of these developments are recent and that humans are capable of innovation, creativity and foresight. I don’t know if the Occupy Wall Street protests will lead to anything. Surely, there will be backlash. And although I wouldn’t compare these protests to those in the Middle East, they all show that, when people have had enough of inequality, of the negative and destructive consequences of decisions made by people in power, we have a responsibility to come together and speak out.

The course of human history is constantly changing. It’s up to all of us to join the conversation to help steer it to a better path than the one we are on. Maybe our one demand should be of ourselves: Care enough to do something.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program director Faisal Moola and biologist Jeff Wells. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

It’s time to “Occupy” Health Canada

by Adam Sealey

 

Health Canada is conducting an unnecessary war on natural health products (NHPs). It states 40 percent of Canadians have expressed “concern or mistrust” for NHPs, but here’s the clincher. Its list of natural health products includes Red Bull, Sudafed, Nicorette gum and Cover Girl makeup. How can these products be called natural health products? And is it any wonder the public is concerned about the situation, as evidenced by outcry to limit the sale and potency of highly cafinated synthetic energy drinks, for example? This is how Health Canada is using “problem-reaction-solution” to justify denying the approval of legitimate NHPs for sale in Canada. It has created the problem by allowing these products, which are anything but totally safe or natural, to taint the public perception of natural health products that are safe and natural.

As a person who depends on safe and effective NHPs for relief of chronic aches and pains from sports injuries and to boost my immunity and health, I am deeply concerned about the direction Health Canada is taking with its apparent systematic dismantling of the Canadian Natural Health industry.

As noted in the report entitled Why the Natural Health Product Regulations Should be Suspended and Revised, prepared for Canadian Members of Parliament by Citizens for Choice in Health Care, “Health Canada denies that the industry is being downsized. But as of their quarterly report, ending June 30, 2011, fully 45 percent (23,818) of the product licence applications submitted since 2004 have been unsuccessful. In 2004, Canadians had over 70,000 different NHPs to choose from. As of June 30, 2011… only 29, 011 different products had been licensed. The agency repeatedly states their foremost consideration for the regulations is consumer safety. However, the products being eliminated for failing to prove safety have often been sold for decades… without problems. Health Canada cannot justify the rigours, or the outcomes of the current reulations based on safety concerns.”

Last month, as a representative of Common Ground magazine, I attended the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) Expo East in Toronto. The theme of our October issue was “Protect Natural Health Products: Join the Team Win Back our Health Freedom.” I, along with two other Common Ground representatives, promoted our October issue to various delegates and I attended regulatory affairs meetings regarding the state of the Natural Health Product Regulations and their ongoing corrosive effect on the industry.

hartley, adam and phil
L to R: Common Ground sales representatives Hartley Berg, Adam Sealey and Phil Watson at CHFA Expo East in October.

I spoke to Mr. Lawless, a Health Canada representative, about Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). I asked him how his agency justifies removing known, safe natural products from the market without any scientific proof they are a danger to human health. He replied that Health Canada takes a “risk based approach” to approving drugs (and NHPs since 2004). In other words, does the benefit outweigh the risk when taking a particular drug or NHP? Looking back, I see this “risk based approach” failed to save people from the fatal side effects of Vioxx, a drug unleashed on a public that looks to Health Canada to protect them from toxic or dangerous drugs.

Since 2004, when natural health products were moved out of the Foods category and began to be regulated as a subset of Drugs, they have been presumed to be dangerous until proven safe. Health Canada betrayed the intentions of the Canadian public, the Standing Committee on Health that advised Parliament with 53 recommendations, and, ultimately, Parliament. It was a betrayal because the number one recommendation accepted by Parliament, was: “there shall be legislative reform” [i.e. changes made to the Food and Drugs Act]… to provide a category for NHPs that was distinct from either Foods or Drugs, and which recognized their low risk nature.” But that never happened. Instead, Health Canada took advantage of loopholes in the wording of the report and created a separate directorate and a new set of regulations for NHPs, which treated them as a subset of Drugs. How is bromelain extract from pineapple a drug? How is Echinacea or Golden Rod extract a drug?

The central problem with Health Canada is the agency enforces the same legislation that it creates while being in relationship with some of the wealthiest pharmaceutical corporations on the planet. This is a huge conflict of interest.

Since similar NHPD type regulations came into enforcement in the European Union, in the majority of countries, people can’t even get vitamin C without a doctor’s prescription; if they can, they can’t purchase more than 100mg potency. And many herbs used traditionally in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are systematically being removed from use unless they are prescribed by mostly western trained doctors.

Unless we take decisive action now and support organizations like Natural Health Freedom Canada, (naturalhealthfreedomcanada.com) and the The Natural Health Products Protection Association (nhppa.org), what has happened in Europe will be our reality before we know it. Canada will be next unless we “Occupy Health Canada” and our elected representatives and demand freedom to choose natural health products without government interference. We do not consent to their "protection"!

We, as Canadians, have a responsibility to the rest of the world to preserve our freedom of choice as it relates to health. If Health Canada is allowed to continue with its war on safe and effective natural health products, freedom in the US and Mexico will be next to disappear owing to our deep integration of economic, environmental, health and many other regulations and laws under agreements like the Security & Prosperity Partnership (spin-speak for North American Union) recently signed by our countries.

All over Canada, people are finally taking to the streets with the Occupy movement and other actions and demanding a return to a society where our Charter rights to “Life, Liberty and Security” are once again respected by our governments. Fortunately, we have courageous and passionate people working to uphold our health freedoms and to halt Health Canada’s unreasonable regulations – people like Shawn Buckley of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), Marilyn Nelson of Natural Health Freedom Canada, the folks at National Health Federation of Canada, and John Biggs of Citizens for Choice in Natural Health Care.

Big Pharma pays a lot of money to lobbyists who convince elected representatives – yes, the ones you vote for – to pass laws that make it easy for Health Canada to rush new blockbuster drugs to market. Meanwhile, since 2004 when our government moved the regulation of NHPs under a subset of drugs, Health Canada continues to deny the approval of safe and effective NHPs, in many cases when there is absolutely no evidence they are unsafe or ineffective. By contrast, pharmaceuticals are definitely unsafe – they are now the number one killer in the US ahead of even auto accidents.

NHPs are being put through the NHPD wringer, which demands that manufacturers “prove” their effectiveness when millions of people know they are effective and safe. But Health Canada marches on with its mission to “protect the health and safety of Canadians.” And protect them from what? From digestive enzymes from pineapple? Yes, Health Canada is going after many digestive enzymes as well as things like probiotics and oil of oregano. It’s interesting to note the first product in Canada to receive a Natural Product Number (NPN) was Red Bull, an energy drink loaded with caffeine.

In early October, our Ministry of Health responded to public pressure about the dangers of incredibly high caffeine energy drinks that have been responsible for injuries and, in some cases, death. “One of the best things about Canada is that we have choices. But to make informed choices, we as parents and Canadians need to have useful information… we are giving Canadians the tools and the information they need to make their own choices, for themselves, and for their families,” said Chris Alexander, Member of Parliament for Ajax-Pickering.

It’s very comforting to know our elected representatives feel we should be able to make our own decisions when it comes to what we put in our bodies. It would be nice if this sentiment were true and applied to natural health products as well.

Health Canada promised to ensure that, within 18 months, all energy drinks would contain a maximum of 180mg of caffeine as well as regulate them as “foods” rather than “natural health products.” Foods? Natural health products? How could synthetic energy drinks be considered either? Part of the reason is the word “natural” is not defined legally. It can be used freely in labeling in Canada and does not legally imply a product is either safe or natural as you and I assume those words to mean.

A Canadian producer of a very popular and time-tested, multi-ingredient joint nourishing formula has recently been told by the NHPD it must take its product off the market and reformulate it because it contains pineapple enzyme that may be unsafe – even though it has been on the market for more than 10 years. Along with other products made by this innovative Canadian company, the removal of their best sellers from the market, reformulation and lost sales expenses will likely put them out of business, harming the family that depends on that business, throwing their employees out of work, weakening the economy while harming consumers who depend on their safe and effective natural health products. How does this square with Health Canada’s mandate “protecting the health & safety of Canadians”?

We are only free to make our own decisions if we take back our power by calling, writing, faxing or visiting our elected member of Parliament to demand the Natural Health Product Regulations be suspended, pending review by the Standing Committee on Health and revision by an appropriate body, but obviously not one in bed with Big Pharma’s interests. Demand that NHPs be given their own unique third category as outlined in the “Charter of Health Freedom” at www.nhppa.org where they are presumed safe until proven unsafe.

Join and financially support your health freedom organizations today. They are poised to take immediate steps to make a real difference in bringing about a positive change in our health freedoms and to protect the natural health industry from unwarranted attack from Health Canada.

They need your help.

Please support Natural Health Freedom Canada, www.naturalhealthfreedomcanada.com or call 1-905-509-5885, the National Health Federation, thenhf.com, and the Natural Health Products Protection Association, nhppa.org, 250-377-4930.

Adam Sealey is a health freedom activist who has been involved in campaigns to ensure continued increased access to natural health products and the survival of the natural health products industry.

Join the awakening

“Just Say No” to prescription drugs
DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

Follow doctor’s orders. Make sure you fill your prescriptions. Don’t stop taking your drugs without consulting your doctor. Those sentiments form the heart of medical advice and we’re all expected to follow orders, right? After all, it’s your health that’s at stake.

Yet at the same time, the concept of obedience – just following orders – seems a bitter pill to swallow these days. There is a strong breeze of resistance in the air, whether it’s against bankers playing with our savings, corporations misleading us about their concern for the environment or governments forgetting the “other 99 percent” of the population. Should the urge to resist authority be expressed in how you receive medical care?

Sometimes, it is entirely rational to ‘Just Say No.’ When your doctor gives you a good grasp of the facts of the disease she thinks you have and what its natural course might look like and you learn about the drug she’s prescribing and its potential benefits and harms – from the common annoying side effects to the rare but potentially life threatening adverse effects – saying “No” is definitely within your power.

After all, you’re the one swallowing the pill. Actually, given the sheer volume and growth in prescriptions being written for the general population, refusing to take a drug seems a natural reaction.

To my surprise, a substantial number of physicians agree patients are getting too much medicine. A survey last year of US doctors found 42 percent believed patients in their own practice were receiving too much care and only six percent were getting too little. About three quarters of the doctors surveyed said the main thing causing them to practise more aggressively was concern over malpractice. Doctors are somewhat fearful if something goes wrong, the patient could sue, but that’s more an American phenomenon than a Canadian one.

What else is at play? About half the doctors surveyed said “clinical performance measures” were a strong reason for possibly overtreating their patients. In other words, doctors may order anti-cholesterol drugs or drugs for heartburn because the guidelines say they should. I could go into a rant why guidelines are so frequently bad, but suffice to say many guidelines are funded and composed by consultants acting on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies. If it looks like doctors are overprescribing, it’s because they’ve let the moneylenders into the temple.

Where’s the patient in all this who might reasonably ask, “Are you offering me a prescription because you are worried about getting sued or worried someone will accuse you of not following guidelines? Can you think of any lamer rationale for asking me to swallow a pill everyday?”

I wouldn’t counsel people to commit civil disobedience when it comes to their doctor’s advice because it could have a tumultuous effect on their relationship with someone who is genuinely interested in keeping them healthy. At the same time, with the rising level of people’s awareness about healthcare, particularly around the problems with prescription drugs, many people sense even their own trusted physician is too quick to prescribe. And they don’t know what to do about it.

So let me suggest an experiment in medical civil disobedience. Next time the prescription pad comes flying out, try saying “No” to that new drug.

There is some precedent for this. Remember 25-years-ago when then First Lady Nancy Reagan held a White House rally declaring society needed to “Just Say No to Drugs?” Of course, she was talking about illicit drugs that were seen as the utter scourge of American youth. As an aside, you don’t have to be a genius to conclude just telling a teenager to say no to something will make them want it even more, but let’s run with Nancy’s sentiment, if not her slogan, for a moment. Let’s dust it off and apply it to an older population.

It’s clear the overprescription of medications, especially to older people – our parents and grandparents – is fuelling lives of quiet desperation. If we want to start saying “No” to the rampant prescribing of drugs in the elderly, maybe we can start reducing the medical imprisonment they’re living in due to the staggering amounts of medication they are fed daily.

We need to come clean about the charade we all seem to be playing when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Even if we believe patients are “involved and engaged” partners in their healthcare, are the principles of fully “informed” consent actually at work? Does a new drug always arrive with full information about a person’s diagnoses and the natural history of the disease, the drug being offered, its potential for benefit and harm and so on? Does all that happen in a typical 15-minute interaction with your doctor? Hmm, maybe not. So just saying “No” could be a game changer.

This is radical because a lot of modern medicine depends not on ‘partnerships’ but on obedience. Hang around hospitals long enough and you’ll hear how a patient’s behaviour is described in such demeaning terms as “compliance” or “adherence.” The message is clear: follow your doctor’s orders, or else. Only the very brave would really want to fully resist.

But, in fact, saying “No” might help build on a more sensible “less is more” approach to medicine. It’s a subtle acknowledgement of what no one wants to come out and say: that much of what is offered in healthcare is unneeded, irrelevant or potentially harmful. This sentiment was captured in an article last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine (May 10, 2010). Physicians Deborah Grady and Rita Redberg wrote: “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.”

One of the areas they highlight, in terms of overtreatment, is a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) – drugs like Nexium, Losec, Pantoloc and Pariet – which are widely prescribed to people with simple heartburn. No doubt these are effective drugs, but they are so widely and persistently used, many people are probably being unnecessarily hurt by them.

Recent research paints a troubling picture of PPIs showing they can increase your risk of developing a C. difficile infection (Clostridium difficile) or pneumonia and also increase your risk of fractures and cause recurrent diarrhoea. If you are getting weapons-grade medicine, such as a PPI for a simple case of heartburn, you are likely increasing your chances of being harmed. Maybe you shouldn’t have started on them or maybe it’s time for a drug holiday? Time to test-drive that “No”?

Many of us are not the type to go on marches and protests and we express our solidarity with the “Occupiers of Wall Street” from our couches, but that doesn’t mean we can’t participate in this social awakening in other ways. When many things are working against your interests, disobedience can be healthy. When it comes to swallowing medical treatments, being “compliant” can sometimes be bad for your health.

You won’t be alone in saying “No to Drugs.” A recent US study revealed one startling fact: many people don’t take their medications as ordered. In fact, about one in five patients fail to pick up their new prescriptions from the pharmacy. There are many ways to resist and maybe the first way is to have a frank discussion with your doctor. Ask her if you really need that new prescription or the ones you’re currently taking.

You might be surprised to find out she’s a resister too and doesn’t really want to prescribe it for you anyway.

Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria. Read more of what he’s writing about at www.alancassels.com

Vander Zalm talks about Smart Meters

 

I’m hopeful; I’m hoping that, in fact, the people will rise up against the smart meters because the issue is so much like the HST. It’s the government imposing – imposing something on the people that hasn’t been sufficiently looked into and that the people are upset about and they are spending a billion dollars without any consultation. And people are concerned about health effects; they are concerned about the cost of it; they are concerned about the invasion of privacy; they are concerned that people elsewhere are protesting elsewhere and finding out that it’s not for them. So they need to be challenged on this. I can’t believe the media is ignoring this issue. I was at a function last night with 160 people. We talked about smart meters. Everybody there, there were no exceptions, everybody was opposed, everybody was concerned. So when that many people are concerned, how can the government and the media sit back and totally ignore it? I can’t believe it.

They tell us the cost is a billion dollars. Whenever the government tells us something is going to cost a billion dollars, it’s generally a billion and a half, however, it’s a big cost. And that will have to be paid for by the consumer. I’m afraid that BC Hydro is going to go broke on this issue. And they’re spending so much in so many places at the direction of government, that eventually maybe that’s the whole idea, I’m not sure, that they privatize BC hydro too. And this will go a long way towards that. It will probably destroy Hydro in the end.

Well, the privacy issue is a great concern to a lot of people and I’m certainly concerned about that too because there’s a device put to the side of your house that basically knows what’s happening in the house, what you’re doing, when you leave, when you come, when you go on vacation, and eventually, of course, every appliance you buy will have a device that connects to the smart meter and they’ll know all the more still. They’ll even know what you’re cooking. It’s sad, it’s crazy.

The big picture, of course, is that we’re moving towards globalization. Eventually, we’ll be governed out of Brussels, Belgium or some place like that. And this all ties into that. They can monitor what’s happening in the world. It’s big brother, we’ll be totally controlled, that’s the direction we’re moving in – and we’ve got to stop it and now’s the time to stop it, not after it’s happened.

Editor’s Note: You can watch the video www.citizensforsafetechnology.org/Former-BC-Premier-Bill-Vander-Zalm-Talks-About-Smart-Meters and on Common Ground’s new website.Transcribed from the video.

How Canada can avoid an American corporate takeover

by Drew Noftle

What do you call a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing beyond bounds, the principal exports are wood pulp and scrap metal, the principal imports are manufactured goods and the fastest growing industry is the construction and operation of private prisons?

According to Dr. Robert Bowman Lt. Col. (ret), the answer is a Third World country. Unfortunately for us, this Third World country is the US with its corporations unilaterally running the world, and its military spending far exceeding that of the rest of the world combined. Disturbingly, Canada is currently going down a path that will see its inevitable integration into the Bush Administration’s corporate and militaristic desires. The question is can Canada regain its own self-determined direction?

Dr. Robert Bowman has seen both sides of the argument of corporatism and militarism. He flew more than 100 combat missions over Vietnam and directed the Department of Defense’s Star Wars programs under presidents Ford and Carter. Since then, however, Dr. Bowman, who received a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from Caltech and ran as the Reform Party presidential candidate in 2000, has spent well over two decades in the peace movement.

Last summer, during a speech he gave in Portland, Oregon, Bowman delivered a State of the Union address at his imaginary inauguration as successor of George W. Bush for President of the United States. During this address, he cited how America is unquestionably number one. “Number one in the use of our world’s resources, number one in the production of pollution, number one in the gap between the rich and the poor, …deaths by gunfire…teen pregnancies …poverty among the elderly …citizens without health coverage…child poverty …homeless veterans …and number one in citizens behind bars. Our Canada is following suit with these prerequisites for corporate takeover.”

Bowman also talked about how his predecessor should have taken the advice of his father. In George H. W. Bush’s memoir, he writes, “Trying to eliminate Saddam would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad, and, in effect, rule Iraq. There was no viable exit strategy we could see. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.” In a rare show of emotion, Bowman then proclaimed, “It is too damn bad his son doesn’t read!”

Mr. Harper is also seemingly missing this fatherly advice.

On August 22, 7:30 PM, Dr. Bowman will give a lecture at the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver. His talk will focus on how Canada can escape American corporate takeover. Although he will be back in Vancouver in late October, be sure to catch him this time around.

In October, he will present evidence to the newly formed Canadian Citizens Jury on 9/11, where a non-partial jury will hear presentations from both the 9/11 Truth community and from official defenders of the official story to determine if the 9/11 Commission Report is a reliable and honest account of what happened that day.

If the jury decides that it is not, it may advise Canada to begin its own investigation to either justify or end our participation in Afghanistan and our material support for the Iraq war. Although the Canadian Citizens Jury will be open to the public, seating will be very limited. The location has yet to be announced.

Come out for Dr. Bowman’s talk on August 22 to see why the Los Angeles Times calls Dr. Bowman, “The best speaker in the country.” We all, Stephen Harper included, could use a little advice. For more information, seewww.vancouver911truth.com

Drew Noftle helped organize the Vancouver 9/11 Truth Conference in June 2007. He is currently working as a teacher in Yaletown. onehistory@gmail.com