Thursday, October 16, 2008

Liberal vs. Conservative

I find these two labels to be confusing at times. I am not talking about the political parties either. I am talking about lifestyle.

It appears that there is a pre-conceived notion when someone is described as "liberal" or "conservative." A person who is liberal is a bleeding heart, anti-war, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pseudo hippy. A conservative person loves guns, is pro-life, pro-war, anti-gay, and a Bible thumper.

Is there no middle ground?

Both labels present contradictions and fallacies. Someone who is socially liberal (or, progressive), may be quite conservative when it comes to their spiritual life, or just life in general. Some liberals life akin to modern-day hippies. Some don't.

With conservatives, I suppose it is possible to be fiscally conservative but at the same time, have a social conscious. This is sort of like old-style Canadian conservatism before it started to follow in the neocon way of the United States.

I also cannot fathom someone being pro-life and pro-war.

I wonder if Jesus Himself was here today, what the hardline Conservatives would think of Him. I wear a button sometimes that says, "Jesus was a liberal."

And indeed, I agree with this statement.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Living Wage - Blog Action Day 2008

Today is Blog Action Day, when socially conscious bloggers unite to write about poverty. This article was originally published as my "Active Observer" column in the April/May 2008 issue of Our Voice: Edmonton's Street Newspaper. For an entire archive of my "Active Observer" columns on this and other issues of social justice in Edmonton, visit

Everyone who is willing and able to work deserves to make a living. How to achieve that in our supposedly booming economy is another matter.

The gap between the rich and poor is growing wider, with the extremes growing on both ends of the equation. A possible solution to the growing class of the “working poor” – those who have jobs but still find themselves coming up short each month for the basic necessities of life – is the institution of a living wage.

According to Public Interest Alberta, 21.9% of all working Albertans earn less than $12 per hour . One suggested solution is to raise the minimum wage, but even $12 is not a whole lot when it comes to keeping up with the cost of living resulting from the province’s supposed “boom.”

One of the problems concerning setting a living wage is defining an exact amount. Realistically, this can vary from person to person depending on circumstances. A single mother with three pre-teen children is going to have very different needs than a twenty-five year old bachelor who lives alone.

Another consideration is that certain kinds of jobs have limited potential for both career development and actual monetary value. The career ceiling is very limited for someone who pumps gas or checks out groceries, unless they end up an owner or a manager – certainly not in the majority of cases. Gradual pay increases over time for these sorts of jobs tend to be small because they do not require a lot of skill and training.

However, not everyone can or is supposed to be a doctor, lawyer or executive. This does not mean that other jobs are any less vital to our economy. Many so-called menial jobs ensure that society as we know it functions smoothly. It is the workers, through their labour, who provide the backbone for a quality of life that those in the upper echelons take for granted. Think about this: what would happen if all of the cashiers at Safeway simply decided not to show up for work one day? Or, if the same scenario ensued with any other job that is generally taken for granted?

A theoretical proposal is that society as a whole needs to examine and evaluate what is important in terms of its values. In practical terms, change has to start with each of us, to slowly and gradually create a paradigm shift in our society. On an individual level, this means taking stock of our own priorities, and allowing our lives to be living reflections of what we hold most dear. This may involve becoming less materialistic, or taking a different career path that allows us more time to pursue our passions or spend more time with loved ones.

As well, the average person needs to support workers’ rights. When a group of workers are on strike, don’t cross the picket line. In terms of day to day activities, don’t support corporations with lousy track records when it comes to employee treatment and pay. While low prices might be tempting to anyone on a budget or fixed income, supporting these kinds of businesses is only adding to the problem while lining the pockets of some of the biggest corporations in the world (and the obscenely rich executives who run them). At the very least, make an effort to shop at Canadian-owned companies, as well as ones that utilize the standards of Fair Trade, whereby the goods are certified not to have been produced in sweatshops and where the producers are paid a decent amount for their labour.

Perhaps it is some sort of fair trade regulations we need on a local level. Our quality of life should not have to suffer because of arbitrarily set wage limitations. The term “working poor” needs to be made obsolete.


Yesterday was the federal election in Canada. The existing government was trying to get a majority of seats in Parliament. The Prime Minister felt a minority government would not work properly. Well, unfortunately he wasted his time and a whole lot of tax money, as another Conservative minority government was elected. Minority governments in Canada don't really last much longer than two years at a clip, so we can probably expect to head to the polls again some time in 2010.

Pretty much everything stayed the same in Edmonton, except in the Strathcona riding where NDP Linda Duncan won over incumbent Conservative Rahim Jaffer. I am very happy for her. I have had the privilege of meeting her a few times and she is very experienced and intelligent.

I spent much of yesterday evening live-blogging on Twitter, commenting on the numbers as they came in.

I got a book the other called Reaching the Left from the Right by Barbara Curtis. She is a former hippie who became a Born Again Republican when she became a Born Again Christian. This is what I just don't understand -- why does our faith have to make us socially conservative? I'll for sure talk more about this book after I read it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Prayer and Tears

I pray several times a day, every day. My final prayer of the day is right before I go to bed. This when it happens. No matter how long I pray or for what or whom, when I finish I realize there are tears streaming down from the corners of my eyes.

At the same time, even though I know that I am a child of God, I feel like I am wandering in the wilderness. I have several communities, but at once I am a loner. Challenges and tests come my way, and calling out to God is my only refuge.

I am witnessing to several friends, one of whom is very close to accepting the Lord. Please, may I speak the truth in love.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Day of Atonement

Today was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The holiest day of the Jewish year. I managed to make it to an afternoon service at my congregation, where we studied the Book of Jonah, as well as other Scriptures. Yesterday evening, after sundown when the holiday had already began, I was moved to read some Scripture before going to bed. The ones I was led to focus on were ones that we also looked at this afternoon, in particular Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. Verses that outline holiness, sin, and redemption.

On a slightly related note, I have gotten serious about my walking and am now often wearing a pedometer. I am so curious as to exactly how much walking I do - I think I vastly underrate the distance I travel. For instance, to go back and forth from the church building where we meet is just slightly short of a mile. I thought it would be a half a mile at best.

And on another note all together . . . yesterday, my parents send in their absentee ballots for the U.S. election. They voted for Obama. My parents are not exactly what you would call progressive, but they are sick of war mongers running their home country. War mongers who pick airheads to be Vice President, who could end up being President one day, in which case the world has a lot to worry about.

Friday, October 03, 2008

L'Shana Tova

A belated happy new year! This week was Rosh Hashanah, which many people simply refer to as "the Jewish new year." We are now in the Days of Awe, which fall between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time of reflection and introspection - seeing where our lives are going and what we could have done better over the previous year, particularly when it comes to sinning against other people and G-d.

There is a custom in Judaism that I really appreciate. If you sin against G-d, you pray to Him for forgiveness. If you sin against another person, you have to go to that person directly to apologize. There is no "greasy grace" here -- you have to suck it up and deal with the person one on one. That can be a scary prospect, depending on that the issue is.

Sin is serious business. That is why on Yom Kippur there is fasting, no wearing leather shoes, loads of prayer, and basically a day of discomfort all around. Alas, the cycle of sin begins again the next day. If you have sinned against someone, don't wait for Yom Kippur to make amends. Don't wait to pray for salvation from the One who has taken our sins from us.