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The Need To Choose Our Heroes More Carefully

Rosa Parks. Lech Walesa. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King. – ordinary people who arose to do extraordinary things.

They opposed injustice and dedicated themselves to achieving equality for all, not just for a few. They were imperfect, not saints and each, in their own way was an activist although not in the manner that has become so prevalent today. They did not support the idea that the ends justifies the means nor did the condone violence. They had courage and they had dignity. They marched. They spoke, often quietly and sometimes they simply stood firm.

I’ve been thinking about them over the past few days as we watch, once again, as the Idle No More protests continue.

I was thinking about how clearly stated their objectives were in contrast to the confused and often contradictory statements that have been coming out of the aboriginal protest movement and from other groups like Occupy.

I was thinking about them as I watched Theresa Spence make a mockery of what they did and what they accomplished with her self-serving and pretentious hunger strike and I was thinking about them as I watched people like Maude Barlow pay lip service to that dishonest and pointless melodrama.

I was thinking about them as I read countless uninformed social media messages spewing forth opinion in support of Idle No More and aboriginal issues from people who have no more understanding of those issues or their root causes than a fruit fly understands where bananas come from.

Mostly I was thinking how sad it is that we, at a time when we most need one, don’t have anyone like Rosa Parks. Nelson Mandela. Lech Walesa. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or any of the thousand of others like them who accomplished much without the need for violence and anger.

Does anyone remember who led the Occupy Movement or what it accomplished?

Maude Barlow, head of the grandly titled Council of Canadians, is returning her Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to the government. She is doing it to protest:

“the actions of the Harper government in recent months have been so extraordinarily anti-democratic and just plain wrong for this country, that I and many other Canadians are having to find whatever means we can to protest.”

It would appear that Ms Barlow had strong feelings about the current government long before she accepted the medal so the obvious question is: if she was so opposed to those actions, why did she accept the medal in the first place?. Perhaps she was just happy to be one of many who were presented with the medal, just one more honour to flaunt or perhaps she recognized it as a future opportunity to use in yet another 15 minutes of fame media grandstanding moment. Whatever her motives, she is sending it back.

She hasn’t sent it back yet, mind you, she needed to make a public statement and garner a little attention first but she is promising to send it back on Monday.

I seriously doubt Her Majesty, The Queen or anyone in the government will be all that concerned.

Ms Barlow can do as she pleases but it is precisely this kind of empty gesture that we see too often these days. She and The Council of Canadians are working with Theresa Spence, as she put it, and that got me thinking that we aren’t very selective about who we pick as heroes these days.

Theresa Spence has done pretty well for herself up there in Attawapiskat. She has a Cadillac Escalade, makes a very handsome six-figure tax-free income along with her boyfriend and all at a time when she was castigating the government for the her people; the people for whom she was responsible but ignored.

That doesn’t matter to people like Maude Barlow and many in Idle No More. They aren’t concerned about the plight of people living on reserves. If they were, they would be as outraged as are most Canadians over how monies dedicated to the benefit of the many is misspent and misused by a few.

Theresa Spence came to Ottawa knowing that the Deloitte audit would be released and staged a phony hunger strike in an attempt to deflect criticism from her failed leadership and it has worked to some degree. She has become a hero to those who put gestures ahead of leadership; celebrity ahead of integrity.

Celebrity is the new religion these days and anyone can become a hero if they have enough celebrity star power. It doesn’t even have to be for doing good.

Within days of being arrested, websites started to appear honouring accused serial killer Luca Magnotta, a man accused of not only murdering his lover but of having dismembered his body and mailing parts of it to various organizations.

Increasingly we are seeing mass shootings by those who will take any form of celebrity they can get even if it is for being a murderer of  the innocent.

Anonymous, the infamous online hacker group which has had some of its members hack government web sites, steal the credit card data of millions and posted hate-filled anti-Semitic messages is considered a Robin Hood by some.

Mega Download promoted and facilitated the online theft of intellectual property but when the owner of the web site was arrested and charged, many in the online community were outraged at what they tried to claim was the undermining of freedom and open democracy. He was instantly transformed from being a self-indulgent thief into a hero by a thoughtless, self-serving online community.

And then there is Julian Assange, founder and CEO of WikiLeaks.

As almost everyone knows, WikiLeaks has published classified documents of governments, particularly the United States Government, without concern for their veracity or the damage that may do to the national security of nations. I don’t take particular issue with that. The mainstream media would do much the same if it could get their hands on similar documents and they didn’t show the political party they support in a bad light.

My issue is that he is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault that have been brought by two women, allegations he refutes but lacks the courage or the dignity to return to Sweden to face. Instead, he hides like a coward in the Ecuadorian Embassy in England.

Nonetheless, he is considered a hero by many who turn a blind eye to the serious questions about his character because he is – well – an international celebrity.

We live in the era where celebrity trumps everything: character, integrity, ability and even common sense.

If Oprah Winfrey announces that vaccinating your children causes autism – it must be so regardless of what the Surgeon General of the United States or the World Health Organization claim. Even after the entire claim about vaccinations is exposed as having been a fraud committed by a single medical researcher in Great Britain, many still refuse to vaccinate their children exposing them to the risks of polio, tuberculosis and smallpox because Oprah once said vaccinations cause autism.

Recently, Al Gore, the darling of the climate change community sold his television network. Mr. Gore came to prominence, after his stint as Vice-president of the United States where he basically engaged himself in busy-work, for his power-point presentation turned video about the ravages of global warming.

As fright-theatre it ranked even higher than the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the environmental movement loved it. The Nobel Committee even presented Mr. Gore with a medal and he catipaulted his celebrity into a multi-million dollar enterprise incuding the acquisition of a small television network.

Mr. Gore has just sold that network to – get ready for it – Al Jazeera the television network that is bankrolled by Qatar, one of the world’s leading producers of oil, that fossil fuel Mr. Gore was warning us about. So committed to his principles of egalitarianism is Mr. Gore that he rushed the sale through before December 31, 2012 in order to avoid any tax increases in January that might arise from the fiscal cliff negotiations or their failure to come to a conclusion.

So much for principle.

No greater example of the triumph of celebrity over fact has occurred recently than the last Presidential Election in the United States.

Barrack Obama was and remains a celebrity. He was considered cool, hip and hung out with other celebrities. The facts about Benghazi were irrelevant and ignored as were high unemployment, having an Attorney General charged with contempt of Congress, the inability to produce one budget in his first four  years in office and an annual deficit that was twice as large as that of his predecessor and in half the time.

He was reelected based on his celebrity and his promise to ensure the wealthy paid their fair share and that he would not raise the taxes on the middle class. The election is over. The fiscal cliff negotiations have resulted in a 1.3% increase in taxes on the uber-wealthy and a 1.7% increase on taxes for those making between $30,000 and $200,000 annually. The President’s friends and campaign donors in Hollywood are exempt from any tax increase.

Celebrity can be very expensive for those of us who are not celebrities.

There are real heroes in the aboriginal community, just as there are in the broader community of Canadians but you won’t hear much, if anything about them. Instead we will hear about Theresa Spence, Pam Palmater and others who will be quickly forgotten as new celebrities arise.

In the broader Canadian community we will hear about Justin Trudeau, Pat Martin, Maud Barlow and countless others who have accomplished nothing to help resolve the complex and serious issues we face other than to advance their own celebrity.

We will continue to hear about them because too many choose their heroes carelessly based on celebrity rather than character and ability.

It is said that when a people most need one, a hero will arise but it seems that may no longer be true. We have no real heroes anymore. There are no Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, Lech Walesas or Nelson Mandelas these days.

Instead, we have celebrities and personally, I think we need to start choosing our heroes just a little more carefully if we ever hope to move forward as a people, as a nation and as a planet.


© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • Gordon

    I’m pretty sick of Maude Barlow myself. Whether it’s her stance on public education or her rant against bottled water, the woman has been shrill for a very long time. I doubt that will stop her now.

    Actually, I found that the recipients of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals a bit weird. It’s as if they had so many medals and didn’t know what to do with them so they handed them out like Cracker Jack prizes. In my community some controversy developed over the recipients because no one knew who they were, or what they did to deserve them.

    Allow me also to chime in that this forum is a breath of fresh air. Very well written posts and respectful discussion with no nagging. Nice! Thanks for viewing your readership as having brains bear.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      I agree with you both about Ms Barlow who has built a fairly successful career out of whining and about the Diamond Jubilee Medals. Apparently there wasn’t much in the way of criteria. Politicians and others were given a handful to distribute to whoever they wished which pretty much undermines any real value they might have had or were intended to have.

      Thank you for the kind words about the website. I have been fortunate in that most of the people who regularly visit my site can think and can speak in sentences even if they don’t agree with me…..and many don’t. But, I believe it is less important to agree on every issue than it is to disagree with mutual respect for each other and each other’s opinions. I look on my comments section more as a forum than anything else which explains why I allow some fairly long comments to be posted. I believe it is beneficial for people to have a place to express their ideas so that we can all consider and discuss or debate them.

      Thank you for visiting A Bear’s Rant. I hope you will come by regularly.

  • Garrett Smith

    Great job again. If you’re ever in Calgary I’d love to buy you a beer or coffee or tea and yack for a while. I’m so pleased i stumbled upon your twitter account.

    Garrett Smith

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      If I’m ever in Calgary, I’ll take you up on the invitation and if you’re ever in Ottawa, I would be happy to reciprocate. Thank you for both the invitation and for taking the time to visit my website. I appreciate both.

  • http://evalynnrose.blogspot.com/ EvRose

    I enjoy the message of this post and have been saying the same for years. I have a baby daughter and I found it terribly sad that instead of princesses being the “it thing,” now little girls want to be celebrities. Perhaps a princess may not be the ideal role model, but I think idolizing celebrities is far worse.

    I did wish to throw out a fact check that relates to your overall message. You mentioned the whole vaccination/autism debate. The article you talked about was from Lancet and was cited by a group of misinformed people, and while it may have shone light on the debate, it was never serious evidence for their claims. That study was a very small case study of only something like 6 children. Even if it hadn’t been fudged into outright lies, there is no way that that small of a sample size could produce any real evidence for a link between autism and vaccinations at all, least of all on a scale that would impact care for a nation of children. However, there are plenty of studies suggesting there is a link, and last I read it has nothing to do with mercury (as is also popularly claimed… even though current pediatric vaccinations don’t contain mercury), but rather with the rate of vaccination. Here is one study I like as it is a large sample size and seems to look at the situation with open eyes instead of extreme bias: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623535

    Why did I take the time to send this comment? Because it is scary to me that the medical profession is just as bad as the anti-vaccination crazies who will look you in the eyes and tell you that we shouldn’t vaccinate because God created the perfect immune system (yep, have heard that one – tell that to the parents of the child who died of an infectious disease easily prevented by a routine vaccination). I had my daughter’s pediatrician tell me the same thing in your blog post – that the original study from that guy in Europe was debunked and therefore, the entire autism-vaccination link was wrong. That is terribly frightening to me, because as a doctor, she should not be so incredibly misinformed, or worse, completely misunderstand basic knowledge of how research studies work, and how to utilize research to practice evidence based medicine (medicine firmly grounded in research). Unfortunately, I fear that the latter is the case, especially in concerning topics like this where it is in the public’s best interest to have all children vaccinated, even if that means that a very small amount will not survive being vaccinated, or will have life changing consequences. There are many instances, especially involving pregnant women and children, where doctors make claims and have opinions they present as fact that are not grounded in research because of the medical culture that they practice in – they have to have the answers, because they are the doctors, and so they look to bigger entities than themselves to spoon feed them those answers without thinking about where those answers come from. Lack of knowledge is exactly that – lack of knowledge. It is not proof that the “other side” knows nothing. Where does a doctor get their information and opinions? From their own self study where they painstakingly analyze the literature, the methods used in the study, the hints of intentional and unintentional bias in the studies they are reading? No – or almost never. Sometimes, as is the case I think with autism/vaccination, they get their information informally: from friends, the media, coworkers, etc (doctors started spewing the opinion that there was no link after the scandal Lancet came out in the media, citing it as evidence just like the general population). More than likely, most of their info comes from a drug rep or government sponsored educational event that they half heartedly listen to while they socialize over a fancy dinner with colleagues. If something is large enough (like research finding that SIDS deaths were cut in half by putting infants on their backs), then it will make national guidelines that are passed out to hospitals/offices every year, and then doctors will follow those… but many things (most things) are not that well researched to make these sets of guidelines – especially concerning pregnant women and children. (or sometimes, something that is barely researched does make those guidelines… and that is FAR more scary – see topic “iron supplementing for breastfed infants”). Afterall – who wants to do research on that population when being in one group over the other may mean the difference between getting sick (or worse) and staying healthy? I mean, think about SIDS. If they did a classic research study and told one group of women to put their infants on their backs, and the other group treated with standard care at the time… then saw a 50% drop in SIDS deaths… that means that 50% of the other group of children died of SIDS in the control group. And if you are the researcher doing the study, you are anticipating you will see a difference in the groups, that your advice will help the treatment group, but not the control. That is tough stuff.

    In short, it is upsetting to me that this topic is normally closed off by those who could do something about it, simply because they are lazy and emeshed in a culture of apathy (that line sounds familiar)… and then when finally someone does speak up about it, they are teased by the same lazy people as being stupid or misinformed…. when in fact they are the ones who haven’t even bothered to do the job they signed on to do – look at the world objectively and with skepticism like any good scientist would.

    Although my main point is about those lazy docs and applauding those who remain objective, I think when it concerns autism and vaccinations, it should be more about identifying the kids who are at risk for it, or the methods that greatly increase the rate/risk – which isn’t possible right now but gosh would sure be nice, and encouraging a modification of treatment for specific children, rather than trying to create a blanket to throw over everyone of either “never vaccinate” or “let’s shoot this little baby up with 9 shots at one time to get him all caught up.” (I find it interesting that doctors tell adults to space out shots if they need a bunch to go to another country, but it is standard practice to give 2, 4 and 6 month olds five shots at once. That sure is strange. Wonder where those guidelines come from…).

    That’s a Rose Rant right there. I’ll go ahead and pipe down now.

    I would like to add one thing – I love my daughter’s pediatrician. Overall, she is really fantastic at her job.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Thank you for your comment. I was not unaware that there remains some studies that have attempted to link vaccinations to autism but the simple fact remains that there is no evidence beyond conjecture to support that opinion. Certainly, it is well established that vaccinations have resulted in saving millions of children from otherwise deadly diseases. Smallpox, for example, was all but eradicated until people stopped vaccinating their children. Considering the numbers that have been vaccinated and who did not contract these terrible diseases, compared to the numbers of children who have developed autism, it would certainly suggest that vaccinating your children is more prudent than not vaccinating them. Whatever decision each parent makes, however, it should be based on discussion with their doctor and serious research, not because Oprah said so.

  • Nicola Timmerman

    My favourite non-hero is Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois who headed the CLASSE group of student protestors last spring and summer. Then he got elected to the National Assembly and has become a fat cat. Hundreds of students like my son missed classes for three months, couldn’t plan from day to day to work or not as they didn’t know when the strike would end, merchants downtown lost lots of money , the Champlain bridge was shut down at one point, etc., etc. The rule of law was challenged and these thugs succeeded in getting their way.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois reminded me a young woman who was an early member of OWS in New York. She was standing on Wall Street protesting the fat cats inside with a sign that blamed them for her unemployment and future prospects. An executive walking by stopped to speak with her and learned that she was well-educated and so he asked her to send him her resume. Which she did. That resulted in an interview and three days later she was no longer a member of OWS, she was working for one of the financial investment houses she had been protesting earlier in the week.

      People like Martin Luther King demonstrated and marched for equal rights and for freedom but when you strip away the shallow but shrill rhetoric of the protest movements of today, it always comes down to the same thing – money. The student protests were over money, Occupy was over money, environmental protest is over money and Idle No More is all about resource sharing and increased funding.

      I find it difficult under those circumstances to see much difference between their greed and the greed of those they condemn.

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  • Martin

    Chief Spence doesn’t broker questions from media anymore, but if she did one might ask if the hotel she uses to freshen up in is paid for with band funds.
    Since her fast may go on indefinitely, are the hotel bills to be charged accordingly?
    Also viewers might be interested in the ownership of the Hummer H2, she was photoed riding in; would it by chance come out of some FN budget?

  • dmorris

    Good post,bear. I wonder if Maud Barlow was given the medal for the same reason David Ahenakew was given the order of Canader, iow, raging political correctness. Barlow has always been a raving socialist,made her reputation blasting the Mulroney government and NAFTA.

    The term”heroes” has been so misused it has no meaning anymore.We have sports “heroes”,politician “heroes”,activist “heroes”, but no real heroes. At least we rarely hear of them in the MSM.

    I was Youtube surfing the other day,and came across the old 1956 movie,”To Hell and Back”.That guy WAS a true hero,and there were SO many of them in that generation.

    When the WW2 generation dies off at last, we will be left with celebrities and activist whores in place of real people who rose above their circumstances and made the sacrifices for others.

    We are living in the greatly accelerated degeneration of civilization,and I see no end to it,given the current propensity of the masses to worship false gods.

    I’m an old guy now,and damned glad of it. It seems so often,on the conservative blogs,that we are like a gang of little Dutch boys rapidly running out of fingers to plug the leaks in the dike.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      My mother used to say that the more desperate someone was, the more shrill and extreme became their argument and their actions. I believe we’re in for a rough year with extreme activism but I also believe that more and more people are turning away from supporting those responsible. This is a country of decent people and most are offended by the dishonesty and the extremism of some. Most of all, I think most of us are just tired of being treated like we’re too stupid to think for ourselves and there are too many prancing around right now who think they should do our thinking for us. No amount of yelling and posturing turns a lie into the truth and there are a lot of loud lies out there right now.

  • http://abearsrant.com Ontario Girl

    First thing I do every day is read your articles. I find them up-lifting. FINALLY someone who speaks the truth about situations. I agree with every article you have written.

    The Council of Canadians got no where with robo-calls so they are hitching their bandwagons onto the Idle No More crowd and Chief Spence. That tell me all I need to know about their minds. Marge barlow has been Harper hating for years…what an un-happy woman since her Liberals got shown the door after the sponsorship scandal.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      The website for the Council of Canadians states that they are non-partisan but I have been hearing about Ms Barlow since she was a local councilor and she is anything but non-partisan. She has built a tidy little industry for herself living of the donations of Canadians to her organization and the subsequent book sales that provided.

      Thank you for your support of the website. I appreciate it.