Monday, October 31, 2011


Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I am a spiritual/religious person. You also know that I don't talk much about that in this blog.

But life, and faith, and challenge sometimes step up and smack me in the face, and well, I have to deal with that. I'm not one to evade life.

I noted recently that Occupy Saskatoon had been somehow "adopted" by a group of homeless people. They slept in our tents, and ate our food, and (when they were comfortable with it) joined in our discussions. It was never "we-they"; it was "us."

We had planned to end our occupation of Friendship Park this weekend. We had made our point, as far as the occupation had gone, and were moving to the next phase of our activity.


What to do about the homeless living among us, eating our food, sleeping in our tents?

Well, no, we simply could not abandon them. They were part of the group; their issues, their concerns were among those which we were raising.

So after many days and nights discussions, we worked out a plan. All of us. Together.

Those who wanted and needed a relatively safe and comfortable place to stay will be staying. Those who stay will devise a process for living together, eating together, and the like. We who move away will continue to support them. As a group, we have money and other resources; that's part of the overall community make-up.

Where this goes next is a bit of a puzzle. The campers will work out their life one day at a time. Those who are not campers will offer what support they can. We are all in this together.

This all reminded me of a story. A story about deep caring.

Then the King will say, . . . "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." . . . Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." 
                 ~ Matthew 25: 34, 37 - 40.

OK. Here endeth the first reading.

Blessings and Bear hugs, friends. Thanks for hanging in with me.


I got a call from the police today. The Sergeant for this division, wanting to know what we'll be doing next, about those who are sleeping out in the park. Was I surprised by the call? Frankly, initially yes (didn't think they would be calling me), but on second thought, no. So we're having a chat with his boss, the Inspector ("Captain" for you Americans), on our turf tomorrow night. I have an entirely "not good" feeling about this development. And I'm not the only member of our group feels that way. But the police are being nice about this situation (a very Canadian way of doing things). It's a kind of, "Let's sort this out over tea, shall we?" invitation to chat. I like tea, but I'm thoroughly prepared to be "not amused."

I'll keep you posted. This gets to be more "fun" at every turn. Except I really do not feel like laughing.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Hello. My name is Bear. Rob-Bear. I used to inhabit this blog.

Lately, thought, I've been out trying to help save [our little corner of] the world. It has been an interesting experience. Very interesting.

We've been working on both a theoretical level and a practical level.

We discuss the problems our society is facing.
• The growing disparity for the rich, who are making a lot more these days, largely through paying less taxes, and the rest, who are actually making less. (You've seen the statistics.)
• Our new Canadian political model, based on 1 dollar = 1 vote (instead of 1 person = 1 vote).
• The real needs of our community, including "the other 1%" — as in the 1.39% of our community with "no visible means of support."

At first, things were cool. We worked on out some of the principles that guide us, and some possible actions. The main one being a "teach-in" on social and economic issues plaguing average Canadians. "Education in the Park" happens tomorrow (as in Saturday, Oct. 29th).

Second, some the homeless (the other 1.39 per cent) joined us, in the process. They participated in our conversations (including our General Assembly) as much as they wanted to and were able. And, since they were part of our community, they ate some of our food. And that was cool.

Third, the "party-people" joined us. They are part of the 1.39% too. They show up about midnight, and look for a place to crash.

Only they tend to be inebriated. As in drunk. Drink of choice: Listerine. Yes, the mouthwash. It has a lot of alcohol in it, it's cheap, and you don't have to go to the liquor store to get it.

And the party-people began to intimidate the other homeless. One came with a fairly big knife, and a bad attitude.  Fortunately, he passed out before he could cause any serious problems. Police and paramedics took a couple of them away. That was not cool at all!

Now, we have a fairly major challenge. Several actually.
• Where to find some meeting space for the winter.
• Which kinds of activities do we want to pursue.
• And what can we do with (not "for") our homeless friends, when the freezing weather comes.

None of this is easy. But we're working on it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


As you realize, I've been very involved in Occupy Saskatoon activities.

But, I never miss a chance to learn things.

1. The average house in Canada now costs about $350,000. That's the average. I've known that for a while.

How many people can afford to buy that "average" house?

2. In 1978, the average income in Canada was $49,000. Today, adjusted for inflation, the average income is $47,000. You read that right; the average wage earner is $2,000 behind were he/she was in 1978.

Is it any wonder that ordinary people are having trouble keeping up?

By the way, the person in the top 1% of earners is between two and four times richer than in 1978.

Can you say "Income Growth Inequality"? Sure you can.

If you can spend 30% of your income of $60,000 (the average now), it would take you to $18,000.00. At that rate, it would take you 20 years to pay for the average house you want to buy. Of course, that doesn't include all the interest you pay to the bank for the loan!

Now, aren't you glad you know that?

I'm glad. I'm also a bit on the terrified side. It is not easy to terrify a Bear.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I suppose I should really put this over on my Bears Noting blog, because this is world news kind of stuff. But because it's personal, I'm putting it here. This is me; I'm talking about what's happening in my life.

Well, not just me. And that's the point. This is about us. All of us together.

For a very long time, I have been committed to building caring community — community where people care about each other, and sometimes for each other (if that's needed). And, of course, you don't have to be blogging for very long before you discover a lot of people need care, because they're hurting. Sometimes you can see the hurt, sometimes you can't. But with any hurt, there's pain. Real human pain. The kind with which I've lived for years, decades.

Anyhow. Building caring community. Community what includes everyone.

In North America, this Occupy movement began about a month ago. In other places, like Egypt, Spain, Tunisia, and Greece it began a lot earlier.

1. It began from a feeling which, which had been caught in a movie, 35 years ago. The movie was Network, in 1976. (I won't ask how many of you, gentle readers, saw it then.)

There was an amazing scene when one of the lead characters, Howard Beale (played by the late Peter Finch), tells people to go and yell out their windows, "I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this any more." That came at the end of a long soliloquy. And people start yelling.

A lot of people are "as mad as Hell" today, too! I think the proverbial straw that clinched this was the bailout of big banks in the United States. That combined with lack of funds to help the ordinary people of the country.

2. That's when people got serious about asking why things are so wrong. And they recognized, without putting a title to it, that America was a Fascist nation.

Fascist nation? Fascism? Does that sound extreme? It does to me.

But, as Fascist Italian Benito Mussolini put it,"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." If anyone should know, it would be him. He ran a Fascist government in Italy, under various titles, for over 20 years (actually, 31 October 1922 – 25 April 1945).

3. Then people started talking. And gathering. The flashpoint was New York, Wall Street — the heart of the financial district that had been bailed out by the government. Despite very different details in their concerns, there were some common themes.

This is a broad movement with many voices. The main target is the long, slow encroachment on democracy by corporate power. That is the main message: that people want more of a say in determining our future, that we are creating the grassroots democratic structures to discuss and act upon our common issues, and that we will challenge the corporate oligarchy that our political system has become. ~ Occupy Saskatoon

That's the point of the General Assemblies, the key focal element of the Occupy movement. It is people working out their beliefs, values, goals. For a historic comparison, consider The US Declaration of Independence; it took about a month to prepare.

The first concern was to work out, together, exactly what was bothering people who had assembled in New York. Hence, the New York Declaration. (There are longer, updated versions.)

Personally, having been involved in the ethical supervision of animal research, I have a problem with the statement on animal research. But there are lots of things which need further discussion.

Three additional declarations are under discussion, which will likely be released in the upcoming days:
1) A declaration of demands. 
2) Principles of Solidarity 
3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group.

Here, in River City, we will hold a modest gathering for one day (at least initially one day). That day is this Saturday, October 15th — a day when similar protests are being held around the world. Using my skills from 30 years of journalism, I have helped to shape our communication strategy. A very modest involvement. For a Bear approaching his "best before" date.

I'm not expecting everyone to understand what I'm feeling and thinking; I'm sure there will be people who disagree with my perceptions. That's normal, I think. It takes time for people to understand things.

I'll tell you more after things happen in River City.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Bear is going to be blog-invisible for a little while. No, I'm not going to be going on a holiday. I'll be right at home. 

But I'll be busy.

I don't know if all you have heard about the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Basically, thousands of people are saying, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take this any more." (That line is from the 1976 movie Network; the script by Paddy Chayefsky and direction by Sidney Lumet.)

There are many situations to which people are objecting. They're mad about the collapse of civil society, and the banks messing with the government "bail-out" money (taxpayers money that went, apparently, into profits and handouts, rather than helping the people who had put money into banks and were supposed to be helped.) There are a lot of other issues as well, including the misuse of power by police, and the failure of government to effectively handle problems facing the nation.

In North America, this process began on Wall Street the same day as my birthday. Slowly alternative media picked up the story, then mainstream media were embarrassed into following the events.

Here is one of my favourite pictures on the event.

Responses to the "occupation" have been very different.

In New York, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has sicced the police on the protesters.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa handed out 150 ponchos to protesters in the rain. Yesterday, seven of 15 members on that city council voted in favour of a motion calling the protest "A peaceful and vibrant exercise of First Amendment rights." The motion goes to final vote next week.

Which in a way, is making the protesters point. If there is difficulty, maybe its being caused by the politicians.

So far, the event has spread to 147 cities. In Barcelona, the activity has been going on since May 15, with major demonstrations almost every day.

And now, even to Canada, that quiet little backwater best known for it's chronic politeness.

Saturday, October 15, is going to be a nation-wide solidarity protest in Canada, supporting the Occupation of New York. It will be happening in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. And it will be happening in smaller cities, too, like River City.

So, Bear is going to be busy helping get things ready. Our first planning meeting was Wednesday night. Hastily called, primarily through Facebook, 52 people met in a church basement to consider options. Bear is helping with communications (which probably won't surprise any of you who are regular readers).

As I said, I'm going to be busy. If we do it right, it will convey a powerful message, and be a good time.

See you when the "fun" is over. Or we take a break.

Blessings and Bear hugs until then.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Beginning tomorrow, October 2, Americans are marking Mental Illness Awareness Week. The event runs through October 9th.

According to an American study, 1 in 17 people (about six per cent of the population) live with a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, yet "many of these individuals and their families don't know where to turn for mental health resources and support." The research was one by an American Disability Service company, Allsup.

The poster for the week has the toll-free National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine, which is 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). The HelpLine is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm Eastern Time.

The free posters are available for download or mail at Allsup's Web site. (The poster for Mental Health Awareness Week is close to the bottom of the Allsup page on the web site.)

As some of you know already, Bear has lived with chronic depression since his teens. I haven't talked a whole lot about it in the past, but now some conversation seems appropriate.

Who knows if a poster, perhaps in your work place, or church, or community centre, might help someone.

Blessings and Bear hugs, folks.