Monthly Archives: February 2022

2022 – the Year of Chutzpah

By Marvin Ross

In only the first two months of this year, we are seeing a complete redefinition of the Yiddish word Chutzpah thanks to the Freedumb Truckers and Vladimir.

Chutzpah is difficult to translate into English like many Yiddish terms but, up to now, the best has been by Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish first published in 1968. It is defined as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts’, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to” He also defines the term as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

Pat King, one of the leaders of the Canadian trucker’s revolt over covid mandates went one better at his bail hearing last week in Ottawa. King is a white nationalist whose views are promulgated in his videos complaining about attempts being made to replace Anglo Saxons. Take the time to watch this interview with King from the Fifth Estate on CBC TV. His level of stupidity is incredible:

In desperation, his lawyer’s final argument was that King who is anti-vax and believes that Covid is not really a serious health risk, requested that he be granted bail as he was worried that he might catch covid in prison. For a number of other valid reasons, the presiding justice refused bail but did comment on the irony (chutzpah) of King’s new found fear of covid.

Previously to King not getting bail is his co-organizer, Tamara Litch, who was also denied bail by an Ottawa Court. Aside from membership in a fringe political party wanting to secede from Canada, Ms Litch is the singer in a Medicine Hat, Alberta band called Blind Monday. John Oliver featured her performance. Thinking she is a singer is even more chutzpah.

Of course, all the truckers shouting freedom and singing O Canada displayed incredible chutzpah and stupidity in suggesting that we lack freedom because we are all required to show consideration for our fellow citizens and abide by public health measures to limit the spread of a killer virus. All they need to do is look at Russia where police immediately arrest demonstrators who oppose Putin’s war on Ukraine. I have to wonder how long any of the protesters in Ottawa carrying signs that said F**ck Trudeau would last in Moscow carrying placards saying F**ck Putin.

Stupidity is also demonstrated by their manifesto that the democratically elected Canadian government be disbanded and that they, the truckers, form a coalition with the Governor General and the Senate. The Governor General is an appointed figure head and the Senate is unelected. Both have no power. As one commentator pointed out, their mandate reads like a failed political science paper written by a grade nine student. They also believed that if they waved a white flag or sang O Canada, the police could not arrest them.

And then there is Putin who is trying to justify his invasion of Ukraine by claiming they are all Neo-Nazis. What he ignores is the fact that the president of Ukraine, Volodymir Zalenskyy, is Jewish. His grandfather fought in the Red Army during the second world war and he lost family in the Holocaust. If that isn’t chutzpah, what is?

I shudder to think what may come next.


Speak Plainly, Sergei

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We have gone full on euphemism and Orwellian Newspeak when it comes to mental illness. Right up to the curious statement I have seen more than once, “He suffers from mental health.” And then there is that all-purpose word, “issue”.

This word “issue”, as in “He suffers from mental health issues”, has been expanded to include everything from schizophrenia to the stress caused by missing a flight to Aruba.

Which leads to, of course, not taking severe mental illness any more seriously than losing a 300 dollar deposit on a COVID cancelled airplane ticket.

And during the past few days I have been listening to the many words and phrases we use to replace this one:

Vladmir Putin has decided to kill people.

Some of the words the journalists and commentators have used are bleak and dark for sure (invasion, annexation, incursion, war, attack, false flag, bombardment, aggression, strategic, peace keeping….) but they still shy from, and soften, the actual human reality:

Vladmir Putin has decided to kill people.

Vladmir Putin is killing people.

Mental illness is mental illness.

Killing is killing.

Murder is murder.

If we are going to take any of this seriously we need to, as Putin himself told his quivering Spy Master in a BBC clip, “Use plain language.”

And the BBC clip is very informative: This particular member of Putin’s cabinet was clearly trying to avoid disagreeing with Putin, and at the same time not support Putin’s obvious intentions (to kill people). He nervously used vague language, generalities, euphemisms, spoke slightly off the point.

With a sly, evil little grin, Putin demanded that he “Speak plainly, Sergei”.

And one could almost read Putin’s thoughts, nicely expressed by his manner. They were, I think, “If you simply agree with me I will not kill you.”

The narcissistic psychopath does not age gracefully.

Ukraine, From Vlad to Wurst

By Dr David Laing Dawson

For years we looked up at the stars and asked, “Is anyone out there?” More recently some have asked, “Why haven’t we been contacted? With millions of potentially life-supporting planets in the universe, why have no space travelling communicating life forms arisen?”

And one answer has been that they probably did, and then evolved to the point we humans have, and then self-destructed, by blowing themselves up or making their planet uninhabitable.

We humans are the repository of a number of genetic traits that ensured survival and dominance as we evolved over the last million years. Once upon a time they worked to our advantage. Now with over-population, global warming, and a Godless array of weapons of mass destruction, they could easily lead us to extinction.

Two of them come to mind during this current crisis. One is the tribal assertion of an alpha male leader with a malignant narcissism and a touch of psychopathy. He is willing to pound his bare chest, lead us into battle, care little about the suffering and death of others, acquire for his tribe new watering holes, slaves, and arable land, gold and oil, and then front the victory parade back home and take the lion’s share of the spoils.

The other is a large percent of the population’s instinctive willingness to give this alpha male our blind trust and loyalty. (think Donald Trump as well as Vlad). I’m sure that strange eager willingness to don MAGA hats and grovel in obedience had survival value at one time. When there was but one watering hole and two tribes vying for it, the tribe that dithered and debated, pondered more generous solutions, each member thinking independently, probably perished.

The survival and welfare of our species requires that we find the means to subdue some of those biological instincts that no longer serve us well.

For the first problem, the narcissistic psychopathic male in a position of power, we need to ensure our forms of governance never allow more than a modicum of power to accrue to one man. And, probably, make sure more women are elected. (Angela Merkel stands out in recent history as a balanced, sensible, compassionate leader).

For the second problem, that instinctive willingness to become FANS, cult members, worshippers, loyal party members, true believers – it is, after all, a panacea for the dread and anxiety the evolution of our frontal lobes has given us – I’m not sure. I don’t know.

And that may be in itself the answer. We all must learn to live with uncertainty, with doubt, with not knowing. Can this be taught in our schools?

Canadian Democracy is Alive and Well

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Over the past three weeks we have all watched truck driving, placard carrying, honking, shouting protesters occupy our Capital. Although joined and partially driven by numerous fringe groups the ostensible beef is about vaccine and mask mandates, and the rallying cry is “Freedom.” They are demanding “freedom” and the end of authoritarian government, or any government at all it seemed.

Many of the accompanying diatribes on Youtube, in social media, some editorials and letters to the editor of our newspapers, decried our authoritarian dictatorship, ascribed enormous powers to the Prime Minister, and even compared him to Hitler.

The irony here is that behind the scenes our imperfect and sometimes clumsy democracy was functioning beautifully. Or at least quite adequately.

The protesters travelled across the country, encamped in Ottawa and several border crossings. They made noise and inconvenienced thousands of people. They cost individuals, small business, and the country itself, millions of dollars. Their actions were discussed in social media, argued in the press, reported on television, and discussed at every level of government. Polls were conducted. Trudeau was vilified for not taking action and, at the same time, declared a tyrant by the protesters and many Youtube videos. Of course a few politicians tried to use this crisis to benefit themselves but that is not surprising.

As Winston Churchill famously said in 1947:

‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

During this three week long protest and occupation our Canadian style democracy lumbered on. Stymied by the big rigs and persistence of the protesters the Ottawa police stood by. Our free press debated the affair and its solutions. Social media of course took some of those opinions to the extreme. Common ignorance was exposed: far more power was ascribed to Trudeau than our Prime Minister actually has, some confuse Canadian laws and history with American laws and history; some mistake American television drama for Canadian reality, some appear to equate democracy with complete lawlessness. Comedians and satirists played a big and important role in this debate without fear of censorship.

Three weeks of big rigs and city occupation by protesters and there was minimal damage to property, no injuries reported. Canadian restraint was visible.

Our government then invokes the Emergencies Act which allows the coordination of all levels of law enforcement. Parliament is convened to debate this. The free press debates this. Social media debates this. The question is posed to our independent judiciary. The police forces are coordinated and very slowly, methodically, with minimal force begin to end the occupation. The protesters’ voices have been heard. But their infringement on the rights of others has been ended peacefully and lawfully.

The debate about this will continue at civic, provincial, federal levels and most certainly on social media and in the press.

Though slow, conflicted, and cumbersome, our Canadian Democracy functioned well for everybody, including the protesters.

The Next Pandemic

By Dr David Laing Dawson

86% of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of vaccine. Let’s say 4% cannot or should not take the vaccine for legitimate reasons. (severe allergic reactions e.g.) That leaves 10% who choose not to for a variety (a wild variety actually) of reasons, from Jesus didn’t believe in vaccines, to implanted microchips, to simple distrust of big Pharma and government, to some vague belief only in that which is “natural”, to conspiracy theories of pedophiles running the show and the whole thing being a hoax anyway.

This time around we are learning a lot about virology, epidemiology, virus transmission and virus mutation in this modern over-populated world. We have also learned, I think, that we can’t isolate a whole country. Not today. (The word quarantine arose in the days we could completely isolate a city by keeping visiting ships off shore for 40 days.)

And we are learning a whole lot about human behaviour within social media saturated modern democracies, with variations in culture and education. The simple “last straw” of a mandate for cross border truckers has given common cause and a megaphone to a whole bunch of fringe elements.

When you think about it, 86% percent of Canadians, 96% of Cubans, 86% of Australians and 76% of Americans taking the shot sounds about right.

So next time a new virus emerges and hits that sweet spot for viruses – deadly but not too deadly, very easily carried and transmitted – , and having learned from this pandemic, this is what we should do:

1. Immediately protect the obviously vulnerable. (COVID swept through our long term care facilities with ease. They were not prepared and many of the people who provide care in these institutions work part time in more than one.)

2. Educate and recommend all the things that we know work or help.

3. Do not over-emphasize or institute measures that really don’t do much within the reality of this modern world.

4. Get the vaccine made and distributed as fast as possible with strong and transparent oversight. Have a plan for distribution of the vaccine in place using all we have learned over the past two years.

5. As much as possible counter social media bullshit with good, straightforward information campaigns.

6. Use mandates sensibly and judiciously.

7. Consider consequences to mental health.

8. Do not overdo mandates lest they provoke unintended consequences, such as a coalition of evangelists, libertarians, nationalists, white supremacists, QANONs, gun lovers, Western Separatists, and other disgruntled wankers.

9. Having provoked a coalition of otherwise inconsequential minorities, do not let them, in turn, provoke the rest of us into being the tyrants they claim we are.

Wanker Spectrum Disorder

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Surely, your Honour, the guilty parties here are the idiots who took my vaccine advice”

Facebook was launched in 2004, and its stock went public in 2012.

It began as a way for the friendless to find friends, a way for shy boys to get laid. Honourable and harmless goals.

And in the few years since 2004, as social media grew exponentially in both variety and participation, the most optimistic among us hoped it would be a fine step toward disseminating knowledge and good ideas (such as democracy, equality, fraternity) throughout the world.

But as social media (along with the whole of the internet) grew and took over our lives we began to worry about its effect on our teenagers, the manner in which it enhanced what we once called peer pressure, the new opportunities for bullying. We noticed it decreased actual human contact rather than increasing it.

We watched scam artists take to it quickly and play to our greed and ignorance.

As a psychiatrist I noticed teenagers did not distinguish between a distant “friend” on Social Media and a friend met in person, a classmate or neighbour. And it was a boon to those teens and youth who found it very difficult to meet and talk with anyone in the flesh, in real life. Or was it? Because it also reduced the motivation to overcome social anxiety and go out and actually meet someone.

And for many of us it has re-created the small village in which daily we make contact and exchange a few thoughts with every member of our extended family and small tribe.

And, my God, the knowledge of the world sits on my desk. Without moving from my chair I can find instruction in theatre, an explanation of black holes and quantum theory, how to build a canoe or use my new Galaxy Fold. I remember the moment I realized the impact this would have on auctions. Quite suddenly our technology allowed each auction house to seat thousands of customers from around the world.

But it also gave Donald Trump wings, an enormous audience and power to Alex Jones, and an unfathomable reach to every scheming, manipulative, psychopathic wanker out there – from those who once sat in dim bachelor apartments writing diatribes in journals, to the Sunday afternoon soap box conspiracists, to the Evangelists who once had to be satisfied with the offerings of a village congregation and a choir boy or two, to the paranoid pamphlet writers, to the leaders of small groups of like-minded supremacists and racists, to snake oil salesmen (and women) who once had to go door to door or travel with a circus.

And for the Joe Rogans of this world, social media has offered a way, as he put it himself, to make a living (a very good living) by simply “talking shit.”

Even before social media, entertainment was becoming reality and reality was becoming entertainment, each feeding the other.

In my own field I watched “multiple personality” move from being a literary and then film conceit to a “reality” in popular culture and then a “reality” in professional culture, even a diagnosis, spawning a whole industry of therapists and treatment programs to address what was obviously a fiction.

Film suddenly allowed the visual insertion of the back story at any time during a narrative to satisfy arc and motivation and cause. It was called a flashback. And then this word, “flashback”, became part of popular psychological culture, and then professional culture, along with “trigger”, that moment of experience by the main character in a film of a sight or sound that provokes a “flashback”.

To work in most films the flashback would have to be short and dramatic, a traumatic moment, that might explain all that preceded and followed. Again this crept into popular psychology and professional culture spawning an over-riding preoccupation with trauma being the all explaining cause of anything and everything, revealed through “triggered flashbacks”.

I don’t think it entirely a coincidence that the popularity of the over-used fictional/film device of multiple personality began to wane at the same time as it waned in professional psychiatric and psychological culture. Though it is to our shame that it also required some journalistic and legal whistle blowing. Yet it lingers, to my surprise. We still have therapists working with clients to unveil and “re-integrate” their “alters”. It was and is fiction.

The flashback in film is visual, clear, specific and detailed, and we believe it, though it can also be teased a few times before the reveal. And this misperception, the misperception of memory being a detailed well preserved archive, for a time became the pop-psychology and then professional psychology perception of memory. At its most extreme this led to a popular and then professional belief in “Satanic child abuse and sacrifice”, remembered and recounted clearly by children and youth in counseling. It was only when some of these stories became absolutely absurd that we considered that perhaps these were false memories, and the product of a child instinctively trying to please the interrogating adult.

Now with social media, our confusion, our mingling of entertainment and reality has been put on steroids. It has been monetized. This monetizing ranges from the pocket change earned by a teenage “influencer” to the millions made by Joe Rogan “talking shit.”

It has given a platform to every narcissistic and psychopathic wanker out there, including those who know they are producing entertainment for money, and claim surprise, as Rogan does, that anyone would take them seriously, and those crackpot true believers in a wide range of absurd conspiracies, and those surly resentful failures who feel they must attack all authority, along with, and this was a surprise to me, a resurgence in all manner of pre-science beliefs and shameful attitudes. From Flat Earthers to Nazis. From Chakras to Proud Boys.

At this point in my diatribe I should be summarizing and offering solutions or guidance. But I have none, other than always asking that most scientific of questions: “How do we know this to be true?”

At the same time I’m sure that should that episode of The Masked Singer ever be broadcast, I will be watching the reveal of Rudy Giuliani rather than an expert discourse on climate change, virology, mental illness, or democracy. I mean I know he is a dangerous lying disgraced would-be despot, also known as a wanker, but can he sing and dance?

A Law of Natural Human Behaviour – Republican Party and Trucker’s Convoy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The RNC just now censured Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and referred to the insurrection of January 6, 2021 as “legitimate political discourse”.

Being part of and observing behaviour in large institutions years ago I proposed, though tongue in cheek, a law of natural human behaviour. And that was my observation that 5 to 10% of the population are evil or villainous, 5 to 10% of the population can, when the moment demands, rise to the heroic, while the rest, that 80 to 90%, follow the wind which ever way it blows, the path of least resistance.

This villainous or evil group is not defined by robbing banks, or committing murder, but by always taking personal advantage of any situation, by any means, at any cost to others. The hero group is not defined by heroic deeds, but simply by being willing to stand up and say, “Wait a minute, doing that would be wrong. I want no part of it.”

All the others just wait to see which way the wind is blowing, which way is most expedient, which direction will not cause them any trouble now and tomorrow. They go along.

We humans have many psychological mechanisms to accomplish this “going along”: denial, projection, short-sightedness, avoidance, rationalization, expedience, minimizing, sloth and apathy, along with the social determinants of fitting in, acceptance, maintaining status and membership.

But with this recent news from the Republican Party I fear I was not, as I thought, talking with tongue-in-cheek, and my estimate of 5 to 10% heroic may have been very optimistic.

Now couple this observation with the apparent willingness of a major political party in the USA to be willing to go full on George Orwell and rename a violent attack and incursion a “legitimate political discourse” and we are all in trouble.

Staying with Orwell for a moment, here in Canada, we all know, don’t we, that those very people who are obstructing traffic, honking horns, and brandishing massive FREEDOM signs, would become, if they acquired any power, TYRANNICAL. In fact, using massive FREEDOM signs to block the freedom of movement of others is rather Orwellian in itself.

It does appear that many if not all of the instigators and cheer leaders for this “Freedom Convoy” are people who fall into my 5 – 10% evil category (I hope that is an over-estimation), each with a personal motivation of money, power, notoriety, each using the truckers’ opposition to vaccine mandates as a chance to promote a variety of delusional causes. Social media has given some awful people a very large soap box and far reaching tools for social manipulation.

Americans need to take the threat to their democracy very seriously NOW, and we in Canada must not give the FREEDOM ANTI-MANDATE TRUCKERS any power and at the same time not allow them to provoke the rest of us into tyrannical action. A fine balancing act, but one, I think, Canadians are usually good at.

Mental Health Reform, Justin Trudeau and Gobbledygook

By Marvin Ross

Keeping on with David’s thread from earlier, I had been meaning to critique the mandate letter that Trudeau sent to the newly appointed Minister of Mental Health and Addictions recently but it slipped my mind. The position of a minister in charge of mental health is new and the Prime Minister does issue mandates to all in his cabinet upon their appointment.

The letter was brought to my attention again and, upon re-reading it, I realized that the only description for it was the term gobbledygook that David used. Do see for yourself

This phrase caught my attention because I have no idea what it means:

“Across our work, we remain committed to ensuring that public policies are informed and developed through an intersectional lens, including applying frameworks such as Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) and the quality of life indicators in decision-making.”

Then, to narrow the mandate, he says:

“As Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, you will work with the Minister of Health to build a healthier future, with a particular focus on ensuring that health inequities are understood and addressed, including for Indigenous Peoples, Black Canadians and vulnerable Canadians. You will work to ensure that mental health care is treated as a full and equal part of our universal health care system, working in close collaboration with provinces and territories, and lead a whole-of-society approach to address problematic substance use in Canada.”

I was glad to see that he mentions health inequities but nowhere does he suggest what they are. Instead, he talks about prevention, virtual health care, a three digit suicide line, student counsellors, and trauma treatment for health workers. The big inequity is the lack of proper resources for those with serious mental illness but nothing is said about this.

Those suffering with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression and anxiety comprise about 13% of the population. The Homeless Hub at York University in Toronto estimates that 30-35% of the homeless and 75% of homeless women suffer severe mental illness. They become homeless when released from hospital or jail with no proper community supports in place. The mentally ill are also vastly over represented in the criminal justice system (4 to 7 times the rate for others according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) because we criminalize them rather than providing medical treatment.

Triage is a medical strategy used when there are not sufficient resources available to treat everyone simultaneously. Care is given to the most severe first as many of us have seen when we’ve gone to the emergency. The patient with a bad headache can wait while the heart attack or stroke victim is rushed in upon arrival. The 13% are the heart attack victims of mental health who need intensive care which has either been denied to them or has only been provided in half measures.

Justin conveniently avoids any talk of these issues and, I must say, I feel sorry for the Minister who has to try to implement this verbiage into some sort of action and to then account for what she does. But, I’m pleased to say that his wife, Sophie Gregoire, is now volunteering for the Canadian Mental Health Association. I do like Ms Gregoire but I’m not sure how she is going to help. According to the CMHA press release, she is going to “work to improve Canadians’ understanding of mental illness, mental health and how to take care of it, and more broadly, to shift society’s norms, attitudes and beliefs about mental health to create a climate of profound compassion and understanding.”

She could start with her husband as he does not seem to understand the issues. We need a climate of compassion and understanding towards those who are the most seriously ill. Only then will we start to get improvements.

But, one thing we should commend Justin for is his policy of making his mandate letters to ministers public. Those of us who are interested can read them and find out the policy direction the government is taking on our behalf. Contrast that with the Right Wing Government in Ontario under the populist Doug Ford. As the Toronto Star just pointed out, he has refused to release those letters since being elected three plus years ago.

An appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled that the letters should be released but that was overturned when Ontario sought a Judicial Review. Now, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the letters should be made public. Ford can appeal again. Every other jurisdiction in Canada, including Ford’s predecessor, release the mandate letters.

Resolving the Trucker Boycott.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Many years ago I was driving with my teenage son when he noticed that the big arrow at the side of the road was pointing in the direction from whence we came, “Dad!” he shouted. “This is a one-way street!”.

“What’s the problem?” I answered. “I’m only going in one direction.”

We got off that road unscathed, and I think I remained “cool” in his eyes (or was that bewilderment?) though years later, should we be approaching a car together with keys in hand he is always quick to say, “I’ll drive.”

It is not easy to remain cool, the man, independent, modern, contemporary, care-free, sweet, “sick”, rad or brilliant in the eyes of one’s children and now grandchildren. (Apologies for sweet, sick and rad; the teenagers’ preferred jargon is changing faster than a tik tok dance).

And cool in my own eyes for that matter. Who wants to think of himself as a fuddyduddy, a puppet, a mark, a pigeon, a docile servant, a “good” citizen, a rule follower? Certainly not a cowboy, or the modern equivalent of that mythical creature from Yellowstone, the long distance big rig trucker.

And that is where this odd reverie is taking us.

The big rig driver. Tons of metal and a very big diesel engine at his command. The cowboy of the highways. Nobody argues with the 16 wheeler.

I do appreciate the self-regard, facing the hazards of the highway every day, the myth of independence, the myth of outlaw as hero, doing a job necessary for the well-being and comfort of all.

And I understand that impulse to stand above the fray, to resist any constrictions or containments, to rebel against authority, and certainly to distrust authority. But here we are. One of those every hundred year shape-shifting pandemics spreading around the world and back again, this time within a slow moving global climate crisis possibly leading to extinction, and you take a stance against vaccine mandates?

Combine that human impulse to say “You can’t order me around” with the organizing power of social media and I guess we should not be surprised.

But here we are. Your jobs will be obsolete in, say, 20 years. And the vaccination of all truckers will probably be a very minor issue within 3 months. So here is my solution: Government announce that many restrictions including the vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the border will not be necessary by early May 2022. Truckers go home and back to work, or enjoy a break from the road.

I did manage to get off that one-way street without causing any harm to others.