Category Archives: Rebel

Standing up for what’s right takes courage


The Freedom Convoy in support of truckers went through Winnipeg on the way to Ottawa. I wish I had gone to see it, but Christiane and I are staying close to home in support of our health care workers and Manitobans who have not been able to get vital health care procedures or surgeries because our hospitals are filled up with Covid-19 patients and the staff are being relentlessly overworked. We are triple vaxxed so we think we are safe, but don’t want to take a chance right now partly for their sake.

Canada’s truckers don’t support such thinking. They want their freedom. And to them that basically means they don’t want to give in to health restrictions even if that increases danger for others. It’s all about them.

The truckers have also been joined by some unsavoury characters that they are not able to denounce. For example, in Winnipeg Niigaan Sinclair a professor at the University of Manitoba and columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press went to see their “freedom rally” when the convoy stopped in Winnipeg. He took his young daughter with him. She got an education.  This is what he reported seeing:


“We saw swastikas. We also saw dozens of signs chanting homophobic and Islamophobic slurs, threats against politicians, and near-endless messages about “freedom.”

I saw lots of sign-less people alongside children and elders.

I hope everyone I saw realizes that there’s no point chanting “freedom” when you stand beside someone calling for violence.

No one credits someone with a “differing opinion” while watching violence. The watcher is as complicit as the doer. Ask the German people if you want to know what I mean.

So, two days after International Holocaust Memorial Day (Jan. 27), Nazi symbols were brandished openly in downtown Winnipeg — and nobody stopped it.”


Frankly, I never thought Swastikas would be brandished in downtown Winnipeg. Some of the truckers or their supporters were carrying yellow Star of David’s with wording that suggested vaccine mandates were equivalent to persecution by Nazis.

This “freedom convoy” has been planned for nearly a year. Sinclair believes the date chosen for the event was significant. It was the day set for Canada’s National Day of Remembrance of the brutal and hateful attack on a Quebec City Mosque. It should have been about that event, not some phony “freedom rally.” There was a hero 5 years ago during that attack. He was not a trucker. He was Azzedine Soufiane, a 57-year-old grocery store owner, who was killed while opposing the gunman for long enough for others to join him and stop the shooting. That took bravery.  Driving a big rig across the country does not take any courage. As Sinclair said, Saturday should have been about Soufiane.” It should have been about a real hero.

 Instead of supporting a cause that needs our support, this convoy stood up for racism and zeonphobia. As Sinclair said, “No, Saturday was about people who used frustration with the COVID-19 pandemic to spread hate, sow division, and try to intimidate people they disagree with.”


I am not saying all the participants in the convoy are scum. But there were plenty of them, and I did not hear many words of dissent from the truckers or the non-truckers that organized the event. They were too busy ‘shouting hooray for our side,” to quote Neil Young.  The denunciations should have come through loud and clear. My own Member of Parliament, Ted Falk, had gone to the Manitoba/US border to show his support for the truckers earlier in the week. I did not hear him denouncing the hate.

Sinclair said he had not seen anyone standing up at the Winnipeg Rally to denounce the racism and hate.  Sinclair summed it up well,

“Truth be told, I don’t know if anyone during Saturday’s rally in Winnipeg or Ottawa had the courage to speak up against those waving swastikas. I’d like to hope there were a few… It takes courage to stand up for what one believes in. It takes much more courage though to stand up for what’s right.”


I would like to see some more truckers and politicians standing up against hate. That’s what freedom is really about. Standing up against hate. That takes guts. Something notable by its absence at the Freedom Convoy.

A very good Question


Recently a friend asked me a very good question. He asked me ‘why is it that so many of the anti-vaxxers are also evangelical Christians or right-wingers, or both?” Why do these people also resist vaccines? I don’t have the stats, but I think the factual basis for the question seems to be correct. The classic example in our area is southern Manitoba, particularly the Winkler area which is known as the Bible Belt and also has traditionally (virtually forever) voted Conservative, unless more extreme right-wing candidates are running.


I remember early on in the pandemic when someone told me that all the eastern European immigrants in Manitoba did not believe Covid-19 was real. They all thought it was a hoax she said. Many of them are also very right wing politically. From my experience that observation seems to be largely true. Why is this enclave so adamantly opposed to vaccines?


I am all in favour of dissenting from authority, but it must be rational dissent. That means the dissent must be based on evidence, not on presumptions or anecdotes or gossip on the Internet. Otherwise, the dissent slips into paranoia. Paranoia, by definition means an unreasonable fear. We have too much of that already.

When it comes to public policy the best evidence is scientific data. Rational dissent must be based on better data or better reasoning from the data.


The Big question is this: why do so many people, not just conservatives or Christians, but surely plenty of those, distrust government so much? Many people distrust government so much that they are prepared to believe all kinds of nutty claims, no matter how absurd, and they are not prepared to believe anything the government tells them.


Everyone has right to believe what they want. But that does not make those beliefs right. Everyone does not have their own right to their own truth. Believing something does not make it true.


People who disbelieve everything they hear from officialdom are just as foolish as those who believe everything they hear from officialdom. We all need to exercise our own critical judgment–our own critical thinking–to find the truth. Then we have to be prepared to abandon our beliefs when presented with better evidence or better reasoning.

But too many of us prefer fantastic conspiracy theories, because such theories, by definition, are opposed to the official version. After official truth is what the are rebelling against. They believe these theories exactly because officials don’t. If officialdom is in favor of something than to these people they are against it. Automatically. Without thinking they are against it. And that is exactly the problem because thinking is what we need in a time of public health crisis. We need our best thinking and we are not getting it.

Of course, when officials are automatically disbelieved, it makes it very difficult for them to counter arguments against them. How do you fight such an opponent? Anything you say is automatically not believed. Good luck with opposing such “reasoning”. It is like quicksand, the more you struggle against it the more you sink into the morass.

So I have been trying to figure out, why so many of these people distrust authority and instead believe wild theories with reckless abandon? I intend to think about this and blog about, in my annoying meandering style.

The Upside.


Chris and I went to see this film on a rainy day in Arizona last year. We both liked it a lot. It is a remake of 2012 French film. Dave Driedger, a friend,  told us he saw the original with English subtitles. That makes him a super intellectual. The movie tells the story of Phillip (played by Bryan Cranston) an extremely wealthy paraplegic and Dell (played by Kevin Hart) a black ex-con who applies for the job only because his Parole Officers demand that he get a job or come back with 3 signatures from possible employers saying they turned him down. Nicole Kidman plays Phillips crusty and protective assistant. Phillip hires Dell because he is the least qualified applicant and yet detects some ephemeral bond between him and Dell. The choice reveals for the first time his rebellious streak.

The black parolee ends up restoring life to Phillip beyond listening to opera which until then seems to be Phillips only pleasure and it seems a pretty thin one at that (even to one who enjoys opera like me). There is no doubt that there is some class stereotyping in relation particularly to Dell. Dell is a father to a young man who has about as much use for Dell as does his ex-wife.

The two main characters learn from each other. Dell learns that it is useful to have some money and job. Phillip learns to have some fun. Both exchange musical tips. In the meantime they have fun riding around in Phillip’s fancy car, yanking the legs of cops, eating ice cream, smoking joints, and trading insights. Little insights that are sometimes the best kind. Dell learns that Mozart is not half bad. Dell learns that Aretha Franklin has something to offer. Both learn that a little rebellion goes a long way.

There is some genuine unforced humour in the film that fills it with joy. It is not a bad thing to go to a movie theatre and get filled with joy. Sometimes that is all it takes. Today was one of those days. I liked it.

The joy allowed me to overlook some of the more unlikely aspects of the film such as Dell creating a work of “art” that Phillip persuades his fellow owner in the New York condominium in the ritzy building. I say ‘go and see it for yourself.’ Perfect for a rainy day or, come to think of it now, a self-isolating day.

Free  Solo



I watched the documentary film Free Solo about the promise of Alex Honnold to climb a massive slab of granite called El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It is a granite monolith about 3,000 ft. (900 m.) from base to summit. It is a massive hunk of rock. Free solo is a mountain or rock climbing technique that means the climber ventures forth entirely without safety equipment of any sort.

At the outset let me say it: I am a chicken. I would never do anything remotely like what Alex Honnold did. I have not the slightest desire to even try.  I also want to admit at the outset that I am fearfully afraid of heights. I get queasy just thinking about what he did. I got queasy watching rock climbers with ropes and equipment climb a rock mountain in Zion National Park 2 years ago. For me, I would have a hard time standing near the edge of the summit, let alone anywhere on the face without ropes or equipment.

I was scared of watching the film because I had been told that anyone who was scared of heights probably should not watch. I wondered what might happen to me from the comfort of my couch as I watched it. How cowardly is that?

I have only seen rock climbers once. That was 2 years ago in Zion National Park. We were beside what I thought was a massive monolith. We saw the climbers from the ground and looking up they appeared as miniscule people. Frankly, I could hardly watch them from down on the ground. I thought the climbers were nuts. And they all had ropes.  In the movie Free Solo I learned that this free solo climb in Zion was an easy preparation for El Cap. Nothing to it was Honnold’s attitude. To me that seemed incomprehensible.

It is interesting to note that Honnold was going to climb with a film crew following every step, often from a safe distance. That must have added to the pressure.

I found one thing very interesting in the film. Alex said, “in free soloing you come as close to perfection as you will ever get, because even the slightest mistake means you will die.” I always think the pursuit of perfection is insane. This type of perfection is even crazier. Perfection, as they say is the enemy of the good. I would add it is the enemy of sanity.

I admit to some unease about the film interviews with Alex. Was the purpose to glorify the attempt? If so I do not want to be a part of it. I think it is a crazy thing to try. No it is an insanething to try. I hope the film does not lead others to try it too to grab some glory. The glory could be short-lived.

The first person to climb El Capitan climbed it together with a partner  in 47 days using “siege” tactics. This means they climbed expedition style using fixed ropes along the length of the route linking established camps along the way and using  aid climbing with ropes, pitons, and expansion bolts to make it to the summit. Even then it took nearly 2 months.

It was ascended again 2 years later by a group of 4 in 7 days. Today it usually takes a group of fit climbers about 4 to 5 days to do it. In 1975 a group of 3 climbers did it in 1 day.

The first solo ascent (not free solo) was accomplished in 10 days in 1968. In time some climbers sought ways to climb El Cap either free or with minimal aid. On June 3, 2017 Alex Honnold completed the first free solo climb of El Capitan without any protective equipment whatsoever. The film is about that climb. He ascended the Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes.

The filming was spectacular with some fabulous 360°shots.  A number of times I was almost ill watching. Remember I’m a chicken.  It was that intense when he made some moves that required stunning body twists and holding himself with a thumb or a couple of fingers and a quick movement of a foot for a slight toe-hold from one tiny ledge to another. Imagine holding yourself up with a thumb? Or a toe? It really seemed like an impossible achievement.

Even though the cameramen at times had to look away as well, one of them said, “Alex is having the best day of his life.” Was he? Why? I really don’t get it.

I personally have no need to seek out thrills.  I don’t want to support it (even though I paid to see the film). I would not want to encourage anyone to take such chances for no real purpose.

Now I know there is nothing gained by me going to photograph wild flowers, or writing this silly blog, but at least I am not putting my life in danger. I get lots of excitement from traveling the world of ideas. I would rather venture forth in the world of ideas than climb a mountain, or walk across Antarctica, or run 29 miles in the Sahara desert. Each to our own. I don’t say my puny achievements are better. They are just better for me.

It was interesting to me that no one in the film encouraged Alex to climb the mountain free solo. Not one person. His girlfriend clearly would have preferred him not to do it, but I also felt perhaps she enjoyed soaking up some of the glory surrounding Alex. She did not stick around to watch him climb. Alex admitted he did not have to do it.  He chose to do it. Even after months of preparation by him and the film crew he said, “I know I could walk away from it, but I just don’t want to.”  He wanted to try it, knowing he might die in the attempt. But he gave no powerful reason for doing it.

What is the morality of a person doing something as crazy as this so we might behold his achievement? I don’t know. I don’t think I want to encourage it, but I guess I did. I don’t know why. Chris did not want to see the film because that would be like encouragement to others to try it too.

Honnold also said he did not want to die in front of his friends who were filming him. None of them wanted to do anything to distract him. They were very careful to avoid that while filming him. It must have added a serious element of extra danger to do what Honnold did with a film crew constantly around him. He even said he was tempted to just do it all alone one day without all the fuss. Just sneak out int he morning and do it. But then no one would know you did it. Why should that matter?

Honnold also claimed he was doing it “for all the right reasons”. What could that possibly mean? He did not explain. Can you conceive of a right reason? I can’t. Even Honnold admitted that it seemed odd to him to say he was doing it for the right reasons when he was climbing with an entourage of a crew.

At the end Alex said, “What a journey.”  That was his summation. That is a pretty prosaic statement for such an amazing achievement. That leads me to think that the entire effort was actually entirely banal. There was no good reason to do. He could not explain one. I don’t think there was one. Hannah Arendt wrote when she covered the Nuremberg Nazi trials after World War II that evil was banal. Sometimes that is true.  But I would add that so is spectacle. Spectacle is banal. Sports achievements are all ultimately banal. It may be briefly fun. But there is no important reason for them. There is no good reason, other than to have some fun and get in shape and experience some competition. Extreme sports achievements are all, in my opinion, banal.

         I know you have to be brave to do what Alex Honnold did. I don’t have that kind of courage. None of it to be precise. But you also have to be brave to dissent from the almost unanimous opinions of your friends or community. You have to be brave to strike out on your own on new lines of thought. You have to be brave to speak up when someone else is espousing racist views. You have to be brave to attack your own convictions because you never know where that will lead you.  That is the kind of bravery I wish I had.

To be in you have to be out


One lovely day we visited San Tan Flat Restaurant and Bar for the first time this year. This was voted “Best Country Bar in Phoenix.” This should have concerned me.  The problem with Americans is that they love what is popular. In Tucson they love the Festival of Books. It was great, but in typical American fashion they loved it to death. Huge crowds destroyed the fun for me. The long line-ups eviscerate all pleasure. It seems to me that if Americans don’t experience long line-ups they think a place must be inferior.  On the other hand, long line-ups seem to guarantee a great time.

I have never been to Disney World or Disneyland. I never took my kids. I guess I was a bad parent. But I was not interested for many reasons–one of them was the long line-ups I had heard about. Recently someone told me about someone else who had been to Disney World and only got onto 4 rides because the lines were so long.

The restaurant today was like that. Most people wanted to sit outside. It was a pretty decent day. Sitting outside meant that people stand in a long line-up just to orderfood. But inside, where those who were not part of the in crowd, sat, as weird as that sounds, there was no wait at all. To be in you had to be out. To be out you had to be in. Go figure. I am always happy to be part of the out crowd, so I sat inside. My reward was no line-up. Same food but no line. I think I made the right choice.