Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: responsibility

Weekly column: Personal responsibility can help prevent future tragedies

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday March 9, 2020.

On a fateful day in 2012, somewhere on Salt Spring Island, a set of bad decisions ended up changing many people’s lives for the worst and ending one. Calder McCormick and Ryan Plambeck, then 17 and 18 years old respectively, left a house party in an advanced state of intoxication due to alcohol and marijuana, got in a car that was not theirs and crashed shortly after.

McCormick survived but suffered brain trauma which left him unable to pursue further education or even ride a bicycle, while Ryan Plambeck died at the scene of the crash. He was behind the wheel but did not have a valid driver’s license. Heartbreaking and yet preventable.

The Honour System – Why We Need It In Place


Initially published as a column in the AM News.

There are many pressing environmental issues that have my attention these days, such as the new decision that Shell can drill in the arctic (restrictions notwithstanding, drilling is drilling), or that our premier is about to sign up the province for many long years of LNG extraction. Meanwhile, there is yet an urgent community issue that I wish to put forth. Traffic matters.

I love driving, but it was during a drive from Vancouver to Kamloops a couple of months ago that I felt uncomfortable on the road and fearful. A semi, as big and roaring as semis can be, was tailgating. Kind of a bullying situation in the school yard but with cars.

To see a big truck way too close to a small car was scary for many reasons. What if the small car had to hit the breaks to avoid collision or another hurried driver sneaking in front? Mass and speed make for one major road threat, and breaking becomes a lengthy process that could take lives or maim someone.

That was before Hope. Once the speed limit switched to 120km/h after Hope the road became a race track.

I used to love speed. Car and road bike. One could argue that it can be done safely in certain areas. I changed my mind on that one once I allowed physics to imbue the reality of driving fast, and even more so after hearing a line that kept repeating itself to create a haunting, yet necessary effect. Whether said in first or third person the story ends with ‘…did not expect that car to drive into ours… The guy was doing at least 150km/h…’

If you’re lucky, you end up with some temporary health problems. If not, it’s chronic ones or death. I have a friend who is still mourning the death of his child. There’s nothing in this world to ever explain how risking not just your own life but everyone else’s on the road is not a capital sin.

Truly, there is little police reinforcement on some roads so it is left to us drivers to keep it civilized, whether that means no tailgating or abiding by other road signs and prompts. Which means that even though 60km/h in construction areas may feel like you’re barely moving, after rolling at 120 for most of the drive, you cannot go 80 or more just because 60 seems intolerable.

Honour and driving could make a smashing combo and a safe one for everyone.

Two issues stand out regarding honour on the road: drinking and driving, and hit-and-run scenarios. How many people drink and drive and are never caught because somehow they never get involved in a dangerous situation that ends someone’s life? The stories I’ve heard from many people are heartbreaking.

The punishment is a mild one still, in Canada, and if being punished is what it comes down to… well, let’s just say we’re all innocent until proven otherwise, but what a way to live.

As for hit-and-run, that might be classified as a classic case of missing honour. Here’s a story I heard recently with the mention ‘Please write about it, it’s just so wrong…’. It is indeed.

Imagine person A driving into a parking lot, parking and walking into a store, only to emerge twenty minutes later to find person B standing by the car and pointing to person C just a few steps away. ‘That guy just hit your truck.’ Person A assesses the damage. Meanwhile, person C walks over and says to person A: ‘You hit my car.’

Bedazzled, person A says ‘No, I didn’t, I was in the store.’ Person C is relentless. ‘Yes you did.’

Person A resists and strikes forth with the confidence of having backup. ‘No, I didn’t. You hit mine, that guy saw you.’ Silence. Person C, now exposed, and in lower voice ‘OK… well, is there any damage?’ No comment.

Honour? Nope, at all. Sad and scary? Yes, in more than one way. Taking responsibility for our actions is a mature thing to do, on the road, in parking lots, at home, at work, whether a thousand people see us or no one does. Someone always does. Ourselves.

Honour is what makes our society liveable and good to live in. Safe. Humanity has always been flawed, no period in history had only honourable people walking around, but having walked on this Earth long enough as a race, we ought to show that we understand more and behave accordingly.

If you create a situation with a negative consequence, you own it and fix it and that’s that. Being unforthcoming about things, even trivial matters, creates room for bigger ones to occur. And they do. It’s called complacency. It grows like the scum on unattended ponds and it takes over transparency.

There may be a time to shrug and brush over the consequences of our actions if they are not of deadly nature, but the point is, when we’re in a social situation, we need to show our grown-up side and own up to it all, good and bad.

Learning happens when the mind is open. Keeping our minds open is a sign of understanding our commitment to life and all its magic. Mindfulness. When we do, good things happen, and that means mistakes too, as they become opportunities to learn. A measure of honour if you will.

Living In Fear Is Not An Option, But Something Needs To Change

(Originally published as a column in the AM News on October 24, 2014)

fallenOn the morning of October 22 a storm of bad news pounded through all media outlets starting from the east, and by the time western Canada opened their eyes to the world, tweets bearing the hashtag #Ottawashooting kept coming faster that you could read them. The attack on the Parliament building and the cowardly shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the reservist who was standing guard at the National War Memorial, made it clear that nothing should be taken for granted.

The raw footage from inside the Parliament building where you hear shots being fired, many of them, voices overlapping and you see people running for cover, and the photos that kept coming all day long together with news, suppositions that perhaps more shooters are on the loose, made it all look like the country was under siege. Senseless attacks like this create the kind of smoke that is the hardest to get out of: fear.

Feelings of disbelief and anger were amplified by a previous senseless attack. On Monday, two Canadian soldiers got ran over in a parking lot in Quebec by an individual whose actions were linked to terrorism and whose activity had been monitored by the RCMP since knowledge of radical thinking was brought to their attention. Sadly, the abominable attack could not be prevented. Only one soldier survived.

We know for a fact, a disappointingly sad one that is, that the two alleged killers in these two latest attacks are Canadian. I find that hard to accept and understand. It is a sacrilege to turn against your own people and wrong to attack anyone simply because they wear a uniform. If their alleged connection to terrorist groups proves to be true, the question remains: What makes an extremist group and their ideology so appealing to people who live in a country where different values are emphasized?

Standing together against whatever evils might come from any violent groups outside of Canada makes sense, but sense goes missing when the attacks come from within. Is fear the answer though? Not at all.

Fear can make us watch our backs in ways that breed paranoia rather than prevent violence. Maintaining a neutral position on most political matters or simply keeping to yourself is not an option either. Having opinions, discussing and sharing thoughts makes us visible in the social context, and that helps address issues that might otherwise be milled inside our heads ad nauseam with no results.

Every time a senseless attack such as the one that took down three RCMP officer in Moncton, NB, or the one in Quebec, and lastly, the one on Ottawa, I cannot help but ask about the social circumstances that send the alleged criminals into a killing frenzy and whether we could do more to stop them.

It makes me wonder if we address mental and social issues the right way in order to prevent violence of any kind, from domestic to armed attacks on governmental institutions and their employees. It also makes me wonder if we have enough collective social responsibility to recognize when one of us is on the wrong path and once we do, to address it somehow, with help from the very authorities that may be under attack if we don’t.

We are a friendly country and the joke goes that you know you’re Canadian when you apologize when someone steps on your foot. Being at peace collectively is a good attitude, yet there is a fine line between not being bothered and not getting involved no matter what.

A wake up call such as the one that ensued from two innocent people dying needlessly points to an acute need to do better. Not out of fear but in order to tighten the social fabric that helps us stay strong and ready to defend our country’s values and beliefs.

We are but a few weeks away from Remembrance Day and this year, though we are not at war with another country, nor do we have any inside war-causing political turmoil, we will have a few more fallen soldiers and RCMP officers to honour, all killed senselessly while performing their duty or simply wearing their uniform.

Living in fear is not an option; fear creates havoc and breeds anger and violence. Yet the latest attacks tell us that something needs to be done. Watching our backs constantly and thinking the worst of everyone around is not the answer, but emphasizing the values we stand for as a nation and defining social responsibility can be a good start.

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