Monday, December 16, 2013

One Ring to Adorn Us All

In our Western culture, jewellery hasn’t been a major male thing since the far-off times when we were barbarians. Better to have the metal on our body do something useful like protect us. Only princes of the church kept on wearing huge and ostentatious rings for their adherents to kiss and prove their fealty. 

Today in countries like Canada married men wear simple gold wedding rings.  In  Britain that may instead be a personal signet ring, a tradition that dates from the time not so long ago when a gentleman would press hot wax to prove his bona fides for a document or package. Everyday high-testosterone types may also have around their necks a small crucifix or other symbol.

Most of the time, when a man does have something shiny of value on his body, it has an emotional connection. It is not a thing to be put on just to match the outfit of the day.  While in my youth it could be a gold fob watch that belonged to a dead ancestor, these days it is most often a ring. For some it might be set with an exotic stone that perhaps even has a story to go with it. I have owned two such rings over my life. 

The first was a cats-eye from the Northwest Frontier of the British Raj.  Grandfather did something important in the army over there in those adventurous times.  It was set in plain gold, was of modest appearance and of unknown value, and I was very fond of it.  I loved it as a link to our robust Imperial past and to a grandparent I never met. I wore it everywhere. Sadly we eventually parted, the ring tumbling down into the soft snow below as I peeled off my mitts up on a moving ski lift.  I just hope the mountain troll now proudly flaunting it on his pinkie likes it as much as I did!

My present on-hand pointer-to-the-past is another grandparent ring, one with three diamonds set in gold. I have no story here as the exact provenance of this quiet beauty is unknown. But it twinkles up merrily at me whenever I am typing, and I think of it as my Faithful Keyboard Companion.  It has survived the ocean and many a ski run. I like to hope that even when they finally lower me into the long box, we will not part. After all, a Diamond is Forever, so surely three must be for all eternity?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Political Correctness as the Route to Tribalism

As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, one has to wonder how much it really understands his message. In this region black activists are angrily suing the major police forces in a class-action for $190 million total. In my backyard the school board has very publicly outed a high school vice-principal for blacking his face and dressing up like a popular rapper for Halloween.

How the 'Black Action Defence Committee' thinks that threatening to to put our police into bankruptcy helps the cause of social cohesion and respect for their contribution is beyond me. By naming him specifically in their suit they have chosen to ruin the retirement of our county's former police chief. The impact on future recruitment for such high-profile but essential jobs is likely dire.

That the kids at our high school may actually admire the rapper being featured for Halloween clearly seems not not occurred to our school administrators. The number of male teachers is in serious decline. Does anyone connect the dots?

In this country we use the term 'multiculturalism' for the politically-correct perspective that no mainstream political party today dares to deviate from. The trouble with the word is that no-one seems to know where its limits are.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Case for More Paranoia

"I..have multiple layers of encryption on a personal desktop at home which is now running Linux and not Windows anymore. I do this because I want to sort of  'thumb my nose' at the N.S.A. more than anything else. I actually have nothing to hide!....But foreign governments have no business in my business or personal life. So I guess this is just my own petty little protest and way of saying F you NSA. Childish? Probably, but hey, why not?" - a comment off the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) MyVoice website.

He's responding to a CIRA survey conducted early this year and which found that 49% of Canadians believe it is acceptable for government to monitor e-mail and other online activities. This rises to 77% when the prevention of future terrorist attacks is specified. Wow one might think, our public protectors have to get a search warrant to view our snail mail or tap our phone lines but the majority of us think it's OK somehow for them to read anything at all we put online!

For myself, I see the fundamental error in our accepting unrestricted universal surveillance is assuming that those in security bureaucracies are any different from the rest of us with regard how much they can be trusted to behave honourably. There is nothing in our history as a species that justifies such acquiescence. While it often seems we live at a very paranoiac time, there are huge gaps in this perception, and online surveillance is one of them.  I'd argue one should be paranoid, knowing what we now know about human nature.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dying On Time

In this mid-winter shopping season, with its Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays and their ilk going right through till Boxing Day, and beyond into January Sales, many's the message from advertisers  about what will best keep our physiological furnaces at high heat and our bodies looking sprightly. We are sure to be encouraged to reflect on how we measure up against the new norms for aging vigorously; the standards set by Sir Richard Branson and other hard-charging late-life high achievers.

Those folk really do seem to have cracked the code for 'aging-with-vigour'. Some of you readers may remember the time when just 'aging-with-grace' was considered admirable?  We older folk were expected to try to keep our lips in a smile and our grousing to our peers. Folk might tell us they could see our motor was running down but we should know that is just the way things have always been. A discrete visit to a home medical equipment store might be in order, but no need to draw attention to our aches and pains. Just suffer in silence.

Nowadays we have Sixty is the New Forty in which there is no justification for behaving like the aged of times past. Cars now last longer if serviced regularly, and so should we. Pilates and hot yoga, orienteering, daily swims and workouts in the gym, spinning, and botox when needed, are all part of the new deal on saving our bodies from the curses of our years.

The problem I have with all this is my body, which seems to get creakier by the month whether I buy some of these services or not. Some sort of genetic biological clock is ticking away in me to drive my physiology to malfunction in new ways. As  drugs often exist today to prevent at least some of this deterioration from actually doing me in, I'm probably going to stay a bit longer on this planet than those before me. But neither government medicine nor today's privately-delivered healthiness enhancements can make me feel again like I did in my forties. At best they are going to make the process of my dying more prolonged, and my death itself happen somewhat later than of old.

This outcome has recently been christened 'Dying After Your Time'.  In the extra years today's gungho technology can buy us before we croak do we get any wiser? Does our life become fuller? To my mind there's little chance for that when hearing is poor, knees ache much of the time, eyesight demands large print books, and memory plays tricks. When one can't read the keys on a cellphone to transmit whatever pearls of insight come with advanced years, it is probably high time to hit the trail!