Are We Becoming A Different Species?

Are we becoming a different species? This is the question pondered by relationship expert Esther Perel. She does so in the context of the impact of technology on interpersonal relations. The question seems ridiculous but when we delve deeper into the changing behavioural habits of mankind, perhaps there is food for thought.

Let’s look to the brain and its wiring. What do we know? Physicians / scholars have identified compartments of the brain associated with functions such as reasoning, emotion, sensory stimulation, and motor control. Yet, the intricacies of neural pathways and the manifestation of behaviours arising from neural impulses are less understood. You can bet that scholars in the field are disappointed that more of a behavioural baseline was not established prior the proliferation of personal computing devices. Such a baseline would have obviously aided new studies in examining change.

Particular behavioural characteristic which interests me in the context of the headline are “empathy”, and “awareness”. That is, any change in a person’s acuity. I postulate that technological utility as it reduces interpersonal time may produce reductions in such traits but could any such reduction make us less human? In other words, can the influence of technology change brain chemistry to the point that we can ultimately label ourselves differently? Notice that I haven’t yet referenced the relatively new acronym, AI, and you all know what this is by now. 

Is brain chemistry interconnected with spirit and soul? If so, could our spiritual selves now be encumbered of expression through neural blocks produced by technology?

When postulating the question, Perel had the human experience in mind related to our physicality through touch and sex. She claimed that we can live without sex but we cannot live without touch. Who here has been tasked with selling off a grandmother’s dining room table but there are few buyers because families are now not large enough to need one? Unquestionably, we have grown apart and the divorce rate exemplifies such. We are less tolerant of foibles and less committed to relationships. In carving out our personal freedom through intolerance, we’ve become isolated and judgmental. A crassness has been infused within our psyche perhaps due to a powerlessness we now feel through the degradation of community supports.

With a few paragraphs of reflection to temper the ridiculousness, I suppose a study could incite yet more curiosity. 

Survey Suggesting Canadians Are Strapped Financially

A survey from the National Payroll Institute published today reports that 37 per cent of Canadians are “financially stressed”. I like the term “strapped” which has a another kind of connotation. Even more startling is that the figure is up from 17 per cent last year.  Given some behavioural patterns that I’ve witnessed lately whether it being the traffic in overpriced bars, taverns and restaurants or reciprocation patterns with my clients (I’m a tax accountant)…something is up and it’s not good.

The thing that I find most bizarre is what people are willing to pay for the “wants” in life while neglecting fundamentals like tax. It could be the Trump effect that people start to believe that if “he can do it, maybe I can do it too”. Have you seen what Mountain Equipment COOP is charging for bicycles? This isn’t even the elite bike shop. Then there is the temptation for the winter vacation escape which is not within the budget of pre-tax dollars of business people with variable income and debt.

It’s really hard to have empathy when people fail to adhere to a written household budget. Now the big spenders enticed by lifestyle clad in $128 Lululemon tights may need to join their brethren at food banks due to rising housing costs and interest rates. Calgary’s rate of attendance at food banks is astonishing – also reported today by “Calgary Foundation”. Apparently 1 in 4 Calgarians now cannot meet their basic needs.    

Somewhere along the line…somebody wasn’t listening when grandparents were sharing stories of hard ship and lessons learned.      

Government Missteps Galore

Yet another apology. You’ve witnessed government missteps galore .This time because of inviting some guy into the House of Commons despite his unsavory history. I have a suggestion for government officials. Our country has a mechanism for bestowing special honors on our citizens. They need not show up in the House of Commons. This institution has been built so that you can tend to our business. It’s not a Merry Go Round to serve your special interests.

If you are an MP, I hope you are embarrassed for standing and clapping for somebody who’s history was little known to you. I expect you to operate with your conscience and not by acquiescing to expectations of party lines or expected decorum which in your opinion may be out of bounds.  Your good conscience carries weight amongst the electorate. You were in fact vetted by the electorate when we sent you to Ottawa.

Now Justin Trudeau is apologizing on behalf of “all of those in this house” but I suspect few of them had authorized personally the recognition last Friday of this man who had fought for Nazi Germany. 

This issue speaks to a larger issue of mismanagement with the federal government. The utilization of government platforms for stroking the ego of politicians and their good friends is and always has been a disservice to the Canadians who look to such institutions to serve them through good governance and good governance only.     

Calgary Affordable Housing Forum

Over the past two days, the City of Calgary has hosted a civic forum inviting residents to chime in on the housing affordability crisis. I took a Friday afternoon off and spent three hours listening to presenters. I did so not having read a 30 point recommended blueprint drafted by “experts” which will be before city councillors for a vote. It was apparent that most of the presenters I had witnessed had briefed themselves on the document.

Firstly, I was generally impressed by the quality of presentations to the point that some hope has been restored with respect to the capacity of our people to articulate positions around social policy. People demonstrated an empathy for others not necessarily aligned demographically with themselves.

Secondly, the degree of the problem was showcased emotionally by those impacted. Statistical data points were highlighted by citizens holding career positions oriented around the issue. The city did an admirable job of accommodating no less than 150 presenters while providing audio / visual support.

A backdrop to the forum is an offer from our federal government to provide housing targeted funding with conditions oriented around a blanket zoning change to all communities which would ultimately expedite building approvals city wide. This blanket zoning change would enable “mid-block” infills to accommodate multi-family buildings irrespective of the character surrounding communities only ascribed to single family dwellings. You can see where this is going. The conditional funding offered is substantial. Municipalities will be asked to sign on from a position of weakness having not effectively planned communities for decades while home owners wonder why they are expected to acquiesce to a zoning change potentially negatively impacting their homes market value. Suddenly a carrot is being waved at city councillors across the country which will help break ground on new construction to aid in resolving the housing crisis.

While the federal government’s aggressive immigration policy spurned the housing crisis, the accommodation made for Ukrainian and African refugees has put us into a crisis and action is required – that is the kind of action now not subject to the luxury of urban planning studies. The failures are easily evident in massive urban sprawl and downtown core vacant office buildings. If we promise a Canadian way of life including a home to immigrants and refugees willing to contribute, it’s apparent to me that we must deliver or send them back with a note that we’ve failed them.

We can’t have everything all of the time in the context of serving multiple demographics within a civilized society. Canadian home owners have seen amazing valuation returns on their property and may continue to do so but will be asked to provide their community assets toward the assimilation of those marginalized. It’s actually social while preserving the capitalist ideal. The purchase of a home within Canada has never come with a guarantee that there would never be a zoning change. Everyone must do their part to solve a society ill. Working collectively is good for us all – especially during a time of much division. Some homeowners will be impacted more than others should an infill turn to a multi-family building. City bylaws may need updates. Life will go on.        

Psychology of Denying Fact

What is the psychology of denying fact? I can only postulate. It could be a combination of things going on in a person’s life.

I’ll start with the notion that not all individuals are empowered equally within a civil society and a lack of empowerment may compel one to “act out” in order to counter a perceived irrelevance. Of course all such citizens are relevant but some may not seem so given experience within societies that have seemingly grown colder. A theme running through my blog of late has been impacts associated with the infiltration of technology in peoples’ everyday lives. There is an anti-social element derived from the application of social media platforms.  In fact tech company’s do everything in their power to deliver customer service via technology rather than the human form. Now of course the acronym “AI” is all the rage. 

When folks feel disempowered, they may seek empowerment by radicalizing thought to the point of denying fact. It’s also conceivable that thought may digress to a point of deceit having started honestly with good intention but with an underlying bias to see a resultant manifest.

What tricks can the mind play when there is a feeling of marginalization or isolation? When somebody has nothing to lose, it’s conceivable that behavior can become morally hazardous. Hence; context and credibility are conditions of the lens in which we witness the freedom of speech. Competing interests also capture our attention while we sift through vast array of opinions attempting to deny fact. Fictitious diatribes unfortunately have the effect of distracting us from material events requiring the expeditious assignment of our time. Without question, societies now essentially grapple with the interpretation of meaningless inputs derived from the sources whom have never deserved a forum but have been granted one now through the democratization of the written and spoken word.