Fallen Angels

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New revelations have proven what many of us had already concluded: that Bill Cosby is a serial sexual abuser. The revelations do not come from more victims coming forward but from Cosby himself – contained within a sworn deposition from a civil suit settled nearly a decade ago. In it Cosby admits to obtaining Quaaludes – a potent tranquilizer – in order to drug young women and have sex with them. Many people are calling for criminal prosecutions and jail time – though that seems unlikely. Most of the cases are too old – past the statute of limitations – to be prosecuted. And for a criminal charge to stick, a general statement has to be shown to be a specific act, that is, in this particular case, it has to be proven that he used drugs to overcome a specific woman and have non-consensual sex. Not impossible but not certain either.

Certainly, there will be consequences for Mr. Cosby. His income will drop as people stop going to his shows or as promoters stop booking him. He may also wind up in more civil suits that will eat into his considerable fortune. Certainly his position as a moral leader in America will be radically reduced or eliminated.

That elevated position was the reason the judge unlocked the sealed files in this case. You can’t go around preaching to others how to live their lives – especially when it comes to sexual or family morality – and expect your own indiscretions to remain private. Think of the cases of Jim Bakker and other failed evangelicals or of homophobic politicians caught picking up men in bathrooms. They were outed and many of us took delight in their downfall. Everyone likes a fallen angel.

However painful the revelations are for Cosby’s family and his many fans, there may be some positive outcomes for society if not for his individual victims. Perhaps the next time a celebrity or the guy down the block is accused of sexual crimes, the public and the media will be less likely to shame the victim and more likely to look closely at the behavior of the accused.

Not every accusation is true but no crime is treated as ‘untrue’ as often as that of rape or sexual assault. People accused of break and enter are seriously investigated – no one suggests the homeowner deserved what happened or encouraged it. There is no guarantee that things will improve – similar high profile incidents haven’t destroyed rape culture and I expect we will continue to hear stories of men in positions of authority using their power to abuse women (or men) they come in contact with and control.

And that is what it is in so many cases: the desire to control. After all, a man with Cosby’s wealth, profile and sense of humour probably could have found many willing partners. Yet, it seems, he preferred his women unconscious and unable to express any part of their own personality. If that’s not a symptom of something darker I can’t think what is.

And that’s ten minutes.

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Positive Thinking

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Relentless optimism is a pain in the ass. The idea that we should always face the world with a smile on our face — no matter how dismal the day might be — is advice that will occasionally illicit murderous responses.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m mostly a glass is half full kind of guy. In fact I’d even say that the glass was designed only to be half full in any case. Maybe that’s because I’m usually talking about red wine glasses. Whatever — they aren’t whine glasses.

Still, telling people to think positively when they are dealing with real problems is seldom helpful. There were times in my own life and in the lives of my closest intimates when things really weren’t going well — struggles with health, money, feelings that the world was out to get us (which as it turned out wasn’t true though some individuals in that world were). My ex-wife and I would take turns saying to each other: “Buck up, buckaroo!” as a sort of sarcastic acknowledgment that sometimes all you really can do is smile through the tears. But the smile doesn’t make the pain go away.

Still, for myself, as bad as things go, I usually bounce back. Or else I walk away. There have been times when my situation was simply so grim, with so little likelihood of improvement, that walking away, leaving behind everything was the easiest or at least less painful option. But I’ve talked about that before.

There are, in fact, some things you can’t walk away from. Ill health has this nasty habit of following you wherever you go. In those cases all you can do is try to get better or, if it is chronic, adapt to the condition, as I’ve tried to adapt to asthma and arthritis. I’ve known lots of people who have arrived at a place where their life is simply their life. They make the best of it and, often, they do amazing things. But they don’t get there by having their able-bodied or mentally healthy friends telling them to put on a happy face.

Some have argued that our way of dealing with cancer is plagued with a disease of optimism. People are told that the best way to tackle illness is to fight it, to have a positive attitude, to not give in to feelings of despair. Like paranoia, despair is sometimes just clear thinking. I happen to think that proper treatment — surgery, radiation, chemo — plus efforts at ‘wellness’ such as good food, exercise and the unconditional (that is unpreachy) love of others is more helpful. It doesn’t always work.

Then relentless optimism is a form of blaming — if you don’t get well, it must be a problem with your attitude. And when you have to face the fact you might be dying, who really needs that extra burden of guilt and shame?

And that’s ten dyspeptic minutes.

Innocence

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There is nothing I can say about Jian Gomeshi that will shed any light or create any darkness beyond the patterns of light and dark that others who are closer to the scene or more directly involved have already created. I am nothing but an observer here, a witness to a growing stain of ugly truth or innuendo or allegation or fabrication. I’m not making judgements one way or another — though already some people reading this will think I am.

These days — not to pass judgement, not to presume guilt, not to side with the accused or the accuser is itself an act of judgement.

It’s not as if I don’t have opinions. I have plenty of opinions. About all sorts of things, about all sorts of people. My opinions do not constitute facts. We should keep that in mind when we want to make final decisions about anyone’s behavior. Opinions are not facts. We know that when we listen to Fox News but sometimes we forget it when we listen to ourselves.

This was brought home yesterday when I heard Dean Del Maestro refer to his innocence with respect to the allegations against him. Dean — you were convicted, they are no longer allegations. Except of course he can appeal and drag the whole thing. After all, it was the opinion of the judge that he was a liar. An opinion backed up by facts but you see where it is going. As long as we can’t tell the difference — as Dean clearly can’t — between facts and opinions or opinions about facts, we are all in a bit of a morass.

But back to Jian. Do I think he committed non-consensual assault against some of his accusers? Likely but who cares what I think? That’s why we have the cumbersome, often painful, process of law — to move us, hopefully, from an accusation to some semblance of the truth.

Of course, it is true that, in cases of sexual assault, the courts seem biased, through their process of demanding that the accuser face the accused , granting the presumption of innocence when, as is often the case , the proof of guilt is difficult or painful to make. The sense of victimization is repeated or enhanced through a process that is supposed to relieve it.

But what is the alternative? Innocent until proven guilty for some crimes but not for others? That is an ugly road to travel — one, by the way, which our government is trying to take us down with respect to crimes like ‘supporting terrorism.’ They want to reverse the presumption of innocence and put the burden on the accused, have already created reverse onus for some crimes.

Not the same? Maybe. No doubt we need to find better ways to deal with accusations of a dire nature — like rape or treason — to ensure accusations can be made without penalty to the accuser while still preserving our fundamental freedoms.

I wish I could say more but I’m still feeling for a way forward and besides,

That’s ten minutes.

Wishful Thinking

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I feel slightly guilty today. It’s Rob Ford. He’s dropped out of the mayor’s race in Toronto while he waits to find out whether his tumour is malignant or benign. Why do I feel guilty about that? Because in my darkest moments, perhaps in a drunken stupor when my outrage over his opinions and political style narrow down to simple rage, in my least humane moments, I’ve wished people like Rob Ford (and believe me the list is a lengthy one) would get cancer and die. No, seriously, I’ve wished these terrible things on those I find to be morally repulsive. As I said the list is long. At least irony isn’t dead.

But of course, my real self, my adult rational self does not wish any such thing. I’ve known cancer victims, lived with them. Some survived the ordeal, others did not. All of them suffered terribly. And none of them were to blame for their illness. No one, no caring feeling human being, could reasonably or rationally wish that on anyone. That was my four-year old self.

Besides, it wouldn’t matter if you did. Wishes are not fulfilled. Even a million people wishing — or praying — for something will make it happen. It’s been scientifically proven. Which, of course, is the only logical position an atheist could take.

A real atheist doesn’t only not believe in god; we don’t believe in the supernatural. Wishes or prayers, ghosts or goblins, magic or ESP — none of it is real. Well, except for ESP. They recently proved that you can transmit thoughts from one brain to another. But it takes a lot of equipment and the latest advances in brain scanning technology to do it.

So, while it is futile, I wish Rob Ford well. I hope his tumour is benign. Or, if it isn’t, that medicine succeeds in treating him and curing him.

And of course what I really wanted was to see Mr. Ford defeated soundly at the polls. I hope as fervently that his brother and surrogate is likewise defeated. These are toxic men, in themselves – if it doesn’t stretch the metaphor too far – a cancer on the city they inhabit.

I don’t know who will win in Toronto. I learned long ago that predicating elections, even as they draw to a close, is a mugs’ game. I wish it wasn’t so but there you have it. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And I haven’t seen many of them on horseback lately. Have you?

But that’s ten minutes.