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Devion's Views #196

KEEN OBSERVATIONS OF AN "ELDER-PERSON" (posted October 23, 2019)

                                 THE ROUTE-MARCH TO TWILIGHT TIME

Every morning, I struggle getting out of bed and into an upright position. This "delicate" maneuver is followed by a slow-motion shuffle towards the "throne-room" (again). During the journey, my brain receives a number of short, sharp jolts of spinal-cord electricity...a subtle message from my body-parts: "monsieur Ronald, we are all working very hard to get you to your destination, in time...before it's too late...but face facts man, we're getting old and falling apart. We strongly recommend next time you're in Costco, pick up some Depends". Now you're being cruel to monsieur Ronald.

                                          OBSERVATION #1 (HELP WANTED - LEADERSHIP POSITIONS)

After 40 days and 40 nights, 66% of eligible voters bothered to exercise their franchise and in the process, redrew the political map of the Great White North.

The result, a scrarrrry, scarrrry mish-mash of regional factions with conflicting priorities; a resurgence of separatism (Blocist's in the East - Wexit's in the West) and a palpable desperation for leadership to unify the country.

Mix in dozens of fractious provincial, territorial and aboriginal leaders, an independent J.R-W., a pipeline or two, a pinch of carbon tax, a drizzle of unfair equalization payments, a sprinkle of devout environmentalists, a dabble of die-hard separatists. Stir, very carefully, over a blazing (forest) fire and voila; you have all the fixin's of a witches-brew ready to explode at any time.

Posted on the door of the House of Commons: Challenging leadership positions available soon. Citizens seek smart, talented, thick-skinned, media-savvy, bilingual...women to apply.

Bye, Bye, Max.

Begone Andrew.

Justin...hanging on by his fingernails.

Elizabeth you're on probation.

Jagmeet full of energy and enthusiasm...patiently waiting to coalesce.

Monsieur Yves-Francois, you are a force to be reckonned with. 

Many vividly remember watching on TV: General Charles de Gaulle, on a visit to Quebec, shouting "Vive le Quebec Libre"; a planted remark that lit the fuse that almost broke up the country. 

Daddy was Grand Vizier of Canada.

As Trudeau-the-elder's train was leaving the station, Alberta wheat farmers were protesting on the platform. Their Prime Minister gave them an Italian salute. An insult Albertans never forgot.

Methinks we may be watching a replay.    

                                 OBSERVATION #2 (THINGS DO CHANGE IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS)

Those of us who "grew up" during the Great Depression and WWII learned early how tough the times were; especially for our "elders" who, with the stresses of everything they had to deal with, had little patience when dealing with smart-ass kids.

Back then, the penalty for "crossing a boundary" aka "being out-of-line", was swift and deliberate.

At home - the "old man" was sure to whack you on the side of the head, or worse.

At our all-boys school - it was guaranteed to get you a date with the razor strap (palms up), or the bamboo rod (bend over).

In the cadet corps - 100 pushups, a five-mile hike with full pack and rifle, or both. 

On the street and play ground (sports) - the groundrule; everyone fend for yourself.

The objective of this "corporal punishment" system was simple and straight forward: Teach kids discipline and respect for their elders. - In other words "smarten them up" fast - so they can cope with what was coming at them, in real life.  

These "methods" served to "train" several generations with mixed results.

Then, things gradually changed.

All of the "cruel medieval stuff" is now verboten and long gone.

The "new and improved" modern methodology: The objective remains simple and straight forward, but with a subtle twist. Contemporary smart-ass kids are now smart-ass midget lawyers.

Today's punishment is meted out as follows - It's "Time-Out" for you young person; no supper for you tonight, you are grounded for 24 hours, go to your room (the penalty box).

"Your room" is that personal-private-sanctuary with the sign on the door "KEEP OUT", where midget lawyers pass the Time-Out on their expensive electronic toys, "studying" and eating junk food from their secret stash.

Only time will determine which "method" produced the better results.

                                 OBSERVATION #3 (ENVIRONMENTAL ALARM BELLS)

Early Fall is a time when young families take the kids to get lost in the local corn-maze.

This year, Mother Nature delivered one of my old man's famous whack's on the side of the head; more dire warnings that flattened corn mazes with snow on the Prairies, weather-bombs in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes...in the middle of October. 

Overwhelmed local resources left affected Canadians coping on their own (neighbour helping neighbour).

Canada remains sorely unprepared to deal with increasing emergencies and disasters. It's time to build a large contingent of trained personnel and an adequate emergency fund to provide timely assistance when needed.

                            OBSERVATION #4 (CHALLENGES FACING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE)

As Boomers in large numbers begin to join the ranks of the retired...there's something not quite right about our society today -  the way we interact with each other, the way we come together or don't come together as a community.

Many feel that there's been a surge in anti-social behaviour.

Many parents are worried their kids have way too much screen time, exposing them to problems ranging from online bullying to rising obesity rates.

Canada's social fabric is changing, fraying perhaps, ever so slightly. Charitable donations, volunteerism and membership in community associations are slowly but steadily on the decline. All part of what British historian, Niall Ferguson, refers to as "the great degeneration", a troubling erosion of civil society.

Is it inevitable? Can anything be done?

Our nation's youth face a mountain of stress-filled challenges; the unmanageable cost of education/skills training, skyrocketing credit card debt, the shrinking job market, the cost of living, etc.. Many cannot see the prospect of ever being better-off than their parents or grandparents...and that is tragic.

They need help from those who control the levers of power.

It's time to consider some form of "mandatory national service" on a federal scale.

Something flexible enough so that young people have enough options they can get excited about and don't feel they're being forced into something too narrow.

Something with a broad-enough timeline, perhaps mandating it happen sometime between ages of say 16 and 22 - whether it's in summer when school is off, or something done as part of a gap year between high school and entering the work force and going off to post-secondary education.

                          HOW THIS WORKS IN OTHER DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES

I learned a lot about how Switzerland's mandatory national service works on a trip eleven years ago.

On a sunny day in late May 2008, our tour boat left Basel and cruised quietly across Lake Lucerne. Our tour guide spent the voyage taking his afternoon siesta.

The ship docked near the foot of Mount Pilatus. As we travelled up the world's steepest cogwheel railway to the peak, the tour guide told the legend of the dreaded dragons with healing powers that lived on the mountain in ancient times.

When we reached the observation platform, I noticed an array of electronic masts on the peak of the mountain and asked the guide what they were for. He explained these were fortified radar and weather stations used by their airforce. He casually mentioned that military aircraft and crew were housed inside the interior of the mountain ready to defend the nation. This was stuff right out of a James Bond movie. I stood waiting for sirens, the rock face of the mountain to open up and watch military aircraft fly out.

I asked him why, of all countries, Switzerland being neutral, needed military aircraft. He proceeded to explain something surprising and illuminating.

1) Switzerland has a military force of approx. 200,000 men (20,000 trained annually) in two service branches; army and airforce (230 military aircraft).

2) Switzerland hasn't done battle since 1815. Nevertheless, has "mandatory" military service for all able-bodied male citizens who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority.

3) Recruits must generally do 18-weeks of boot camp and then required to spend several weeks in the army every year until they have completed a minimum 245 days of service.

In this way, young Swiss men receive discipline, physical and job skills training, benefiting from their mandatory military service.

The Swiss population is 8.4 million; 2019 unemployment rate is 2.3%.

Other countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Lithuania and Israel conscript for economic as well as military benefits that include a) cultivating new skills (human capital) -  b) new social networks (social capital) - c) new social norms and codes of behaviour (cultural capital).

Military service develops general skills useful in any sector, such as adaptation, managing and social skills. 90% of workers in Israel's technology sector have performed military service. So valuable are Israeli ex-conscripts skills that Silicon Valley firms compete to recruit them.

There is no doubt some able-bodied 19-year-olds view military service as a burden. But if it helps their careers and provides coping skills for life in a contemporary world, how can it not be worth it.

                                       IS THIS WORTH PURSUING HERE?

Wouldn't a "mandatory-national-service" period, for say 18 to 34-year-old's (along the lines of the aformentioned) be of benefit and help safeguard three oceans, seven time zones, environmental, economic and job skills challenges currently confronting the nation?

What might prevent the Feds from commissioning a study to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of such an option and releasing the results to taxpayers/voters? Blinders? Fear? Disinterest?

"All things are bound together. All things connect" - Chief Seattle

Ron Devion, No Guts, No Glory