The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, October 09, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

A few things you may not know about the origins of Thanksgiving in Canada.

  • The first Thanksgiving celebration in North America is said to have taken place during Martin Frobisher's voyage in 1578. It was held in what is now Frobisher Bay, Nunavut. The event thought of as the first Thanksgiving in the United States took place in 1621.
  • Thanksgiving has its roots in European harvest festivals.
  • Turkey, pumpkin and squash were added to Canadian Thanskgiving practices by the United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution.
  • Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in 1816 on May 21 in lower Canada and June 18 in upper Canada. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1879, although the date fluctuated. It wasn't until 1957 that Thanksgiving was decreed to be the second Monday in October.

Let us remember that for all the challenges we may face individually, within our families, our communities and society as a whole, as Canadians, we have much to be thankful for.

I hope you have a happy, healthy and joyous Thanksgiving weekend.



The Problem With Solutions

Mark Kawabe - Friday, October 07, 2016

SolutionsEvery day, we're faced with problems. Some are old. Some are new. Some of our own creation. Some we had nothing to do with.

Regardless of the source, problems need solutions. Perhaps it's just one person who has to put in the effort. Sometimes it's a collective effort of everyone on the planet that's required.

How you solve a problem is related to your values and beliefs. This means that who you are biases you toward a certain way of solving a problem. Your solution that requires negotiation and listening won't appeal to someone who thinks going in all-guns-blazing is the correct approach. Who's right? It's hard to know, but one certainty is there will be a debate over which approach is better.

For the big problems in society, we'll only know how good a solution is a decade or more after it's implemented. Even something the majority of people thought was good at the time has the potential to fail dramatically. Sometimes it will be because the solution itself was flawed. Other times it will be how the solution was implemented. Teasing apart why a solution isn't working is often so complicated that many are tempted to scrap it and try something different. If you've followed an election, you'll know what this looks like. Most political parties are quick to point out why something their opponents did was useless. The challenge for them is to come up with something better.

That's the challenge for all of us, really. How do we come up with something better than the status quo? On any given day, we have an opportunity to do better within our selves, our families, our workplaces, our communities, our country, and in the world. How do we do this?

I suggest we take more time to listen, on all levels. Start by listening to yourself. Tune into your emotions, gut feelings, hopes, fears and dreams. What can you do to be a better person?

Remember, the solutions you choose for problems are connected to your values and beliefs. Making change in the world means making changes in your self. You won't create a better outcome for yourself by making the same choices.

This approach scales. Remember that when you're in a position of leadership. Creating better outcomes for everyone starts with listening, empathizing, having compassion, collaborating, choosing a solution and then clearly communicating the reasons for that choice. Keep stakeholders informed as you go. Honestly evaluate progress. Be flexible and humble enough to admit mistakes if there were any, then get re-focused on the task at hand.

Remember: when you're confronted by a problem that if it was easy to fix, it would already be fixed. "Silver-bullet" type solutions are rare, largely because most situations are more complicated than being attacked by a werewolf. If there's any "magic" in solutions, it's doing your best to make the most appropriate decision, implementing, measuring, adjusting if necessary and continuing on. 

 



Litmus Test

Mark Kawabe - Monday, September 19, 2016

A litmus test for social justiceThere are lots of "marginalized" people in our society. What makes someone marginalized? In general, if people are part of society but aren't welcome by the majority, they are considered marginalized.

If you think about the news headlines, you'll probably be able to think of many marginalized groups in our society. Women. Visible minorities. People with disabilities. Indigenous people. The LGBTQ+ community. The list goes on, and on, and on.

There are those who've said that marginalized groups should just "get over it" and get on with bettering their lives. It's easy to say, but it doesn't recognize the reality that the structures of society weren't created to give those groups equal opportunities. This is why we often hear discussions about institutionalized racism, sexism, rape culture etc.

I watched an interesting video about racism that I think applies to many of societal issues. Here's the link to the video. In short, the audience (predominantly "white Americans") was asked to stand up if they would be happy to receive the same treatment as the black population is generally treated. Nobody stood. The question was repeated, yet nobody stood up.

It was then pointed out that every audience member obviously knew African-Americans are treated worse than white people in American society. The question was then asked why everyone was willing to accept the situation and allow others to be treated that way. Silence.

If you find yourself wondering why a group is complaining of how they're being treated, you can ask yourself a similar question.

Are you willing to be treated the same way women are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way the poor are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way indigenous people are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way people with disabilities are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way LGTBQ people are treated in society?

And, if you're not willing to be treated that way, are you working to change the status quo for everyone's betterment?

 



Interconnected

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, September 18, 2016

We are interconnectedEvery action has a consequence. The smallest act not taken can have a huge ripple effect. We are interconnected in ways we don't often think about, yet exploring and understanding those connections are essential for our individual and collective benefit.

I'm fascinated with how our society is transforming. There are heated discussions around every topic imaginable. From the environment, to race, gender, technology, economics, food, culture, politics, energy, transportation, it seems that every facet of our society is undergoing change. It can be overwhelming to try and comprehend all that's happening.

My desire is to begin exploring these connections as they relate to Niagara. I hope to increase awareness of and discussion about these issues from an open and welcoming perspective, while weaving in information about what's going on in Niagara from a business and cultural view. This fits with my vision for the Niagara Guide to "Bring Niagara Together". It's kind of a grand, muddy vision, and I don't know where it's going to take me, but then again, it kind of reminds me of life in general. It's grand. It's not easy, neat or tidy. But at the end of the day, I'm grateful to have lived another day and appreciate the opportunity to have new experiences tomorrow.

I hope you'll enjoy the journey. More importantly, I hope you'll participate in the discussion and exploration of topics. All voices are welcome on the journey.



Today's Gift of Time

Mark Kawabe - Monday, July 25, 2016

The gift of timeEvery day we wake up, we have a gift.

It's called time.

The fact is that today, you woke up. You are an alive, breathing, sentient human being, alive at one of the most exciting times in history.

What are you going to do today?

What will you do that will inspire?

What will you do that will help?

What will you do that will be of benefit?

Every second of every day, you can be working on making yourself and the world a better place, one choice at a time.

You can choose to help.

You can choose to say a kind word.

You can choose to forgive yourself and others.

You can choose to change your attitude for a moment, for a minute, for an hour, for a day, for a week, for the rest of your life.

Opportunities for greatness exist in the smallest of acts.

Today's post was inspired by my uncle Tats, who passed away this weekend. His time was up. I still have some. So do you.

How will you choose to use your gifts today?



Blink, and You Miss It

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 27, 2016 was National Multiculturalism Day in Canada.

You'll be forgiven if you didn't know about it. Not that it means much, but I had no idea. I suspect the same is true for many Canadians.

Canada was the first country to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, back in 1971. Doing so promotes the idea that all Canadians are equal. It affirms the value and dignity of everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, language or religious affiliation. Multiculturalism helps encourage racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

As an official policy, that's great. The reality on the ground is different. Most cultures tend to stick together. While this is natural, it means there are still barriers to achieving that cross-cultural understanding.

Here are some ideas on how actively become more multicultural.

  • Become friends with at least two or three people who are from a different religion than you. Chances are they'll be from a different ethnic group than you as well. The twelve classical world religions (alphabetically) are: Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.
  • Choose to eat at small, ethnic restaurants. I like Wind, but it's not a true cultural experience in my opinion. Visit Kool Katts (Caribbean), Michinoku (Japanese), Spiice (Chinese), Duru (Korean)The Garden Restaurant (Greek), Passage to India (Indian / Pakistani), Afghan Horseman Kabob (Afghani), The Thai Dish (Thai), and any other non-chain restaurant that offers more authentic cooking. Learning about culture while experiencing new foods is great fun. If you're unsure what to order, ask the proprietors what they would recommend to someone who's never eaten that cuisine before.
  • When you see a racial, religious or cultural stereotype, take some time to research whether it's actually true. It's easy for untruths and misinformation to be spread online. Take some time to educate yourself and others.
Whether or not you (or I) knew that yesterday was National Multiculturalism Day is really not important as long as we're doing our part to foster understanding among all people.


Here We Go Again

Mark Kawabe - Friday, June 24, 2016

The British people have spoken and have voted to leave the European Union. 52% of the population have chosen the uncertainty of leaving vs. the uncertainty of remaining. The one thing the two sides have in common is fear.

The fear of staying in the EU, with its perceived bureaucracy, ability to impose rules on its member states and unaccountability was enough to convince a majority of Britons to vote to leave. The fear of economic uncertainty was an major factor in why almost an equal number voted to stay.

The start of the plunge at the top of a roller coaster

With all the uncertainty, one thing is certain: change is scary, but it's less scary if we seem to be in control. 52% of voters felt they would have more control over their futures by not being part of a larger entity. Thinking we have control over a potential outcome helps reduce fear.

The media headlines today are fear-provoking. They always are and they always will be. Fear is how the media get our attention and make their money. If there's one thing you have control over, it's your ability to recognize that despite the challenges you face, there are some things you control and some things you don't. Control what you can, then deal with whatever else comes your way to the best of your abilities.

We're on a big roller coaster. There's a build up, we go over the precipice and then are thrown around more loops, curves, swoops and hills. Ultimately though, we wind up in the same place as we were before, a little shaken up, our equilibrium thrown off, our hair a mess, and slightly changed for the experience.

Enjoy the ride as best you can and remember: we're all in this together.

 



National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, June 23, 2016

On June 23, 1985, 329 Canadians died when Air India flight 182 was destroyed by a bomb. To this day, this event is the largest mass murder and act of terrorism in Canadian history.

June 23rd was declared a National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. Flags should be flown at half mast to honour both the victims of the bombing of Air India flight 182 along with all other Canadian victims of terrorism.

May we remember and honour appropriately.



National Aboriginal Day

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Totem PoleToday is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. To be honest, this is the first time I've heard about it. I suspect I'm not the only one in that boat. It's the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, so I've been in the dark for 20 years. Thank you Candy Palmater on CBC for enlightening me.

On June 21st, we are invited to learn more about Indigenous history and culture and to build stronger relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

A quick scan of the Ontario government's website shows that tonight, Niagara Falls will be lit in the colours of the Medicine Wheel (yellow, red, blue and white) to mark the day. The Canadian Government's website lists a number of events happening around the country. The only Niagara events I could find marking the day in the top 30 results in Google is a display of Aboriginal art at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery and a picture from Ontario Power Generation's Instagram account - and the mention of the lighting of Niagara Falls in the Ontario Government's news release.

It can be argued that Canada would not be Canada were it not for the assistance of Aboriginal soldiers during the War of 1812. I don't think the intervening years have been kind to Canada's Indigenous peoples. We collectively owe them a debt of gratitude for their contributions to the founding of our country, and I think we owe it to ourselves to repay that debt with more compassion and understanding of Aboriginal concerns nation-wide.

Happy National Aboriginal Day! Here's hoping for better relations between us all.



Earth Day 2016

Mark Kawabe - Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day! My wish for this year is for action. Not for wishes, platitudes, or grand ideas.

As a society, we don't live in harmony with each other, much less the other organisms that we share the earth with. The natural systems we coexist with are what allow us to survive and thrive. We can do better than we've done in the past.

That's my personal goal - to do better - to improve my interactions with my environment, to work on minimizing negative impacts I make, and to educate myself and others on things we can do to protect and enhance Niagara's natural wealth.

I hope you will make it your goal as well. If enough of us do, I believe we can create more livable, sustainable communities. That's a worthwhile goal I hope everyone can move toward.

Comfort Maple




Comment


No Very





Captcha Image
You can list your business for free, or we can help you share your story.
Let us help you get the word out.