Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Battles won, battles lost, the game continues

Year six has been one of true challenges for Mayorgate and its monkeys. There have been fewer posts than usual this past year, and that's not because six years in means old and slowing down. Rather, it has been a year where a great deal of preparation had been taken up with two legal battles.

As legal battles go they can be likened to the equivalency of a miniseries, and Mayorgate had been a co-star in two separate ones for a couple of years. So the year began with an article titled Brian McMullan Finally Under Oath. In a fashion this article attempted to walk alongside a belief, a faith, in our legal system which binds this nation on all levels. Our justice system is the mythical binding, and the courts a battlefield where facts and evidence are permitted to be heard, where questions of truth or falseness are examined before decisions made. Well it sounds good but it happens to be all too often monkey business.

This saga with the former mayor of St. Catharines, Brian McMullan, was reaching a battlefield stage in November of 2015. Mayorgate's article walked through some very serious issues relating to trust and accountability. A trial was set for the 4th and 5th of November, and months of preparation were necessary. What transpired at the trial was nothing short of shocking, and because that was act one details cannot be opened for now. Some small points though can be mentioned at this time that remain as gems embedded into the mind.

First of all when there is a trial under the Slander and Libel laws, one of the most important issues at question is reputation. In this case it was an elected member of government and issues of trust are of great importance. The presiding judge from the opening of this session admitted to having known Ms. Debbie Zimmerman, a Regional Councillor Brian McMullan was having an affair with, and asked if there were any objections, but they were ignored. Little things such as an affair with a fellow regional councillor, a divorce, potential conflict of interest, and more were ruled out as irrelevant.

Year six's first article was filled with confidence that finally the truth will be heard, but reality for now proved it had to wait. At the same time the world was becoming increasingly concerned over Vladimir Putin and his intentions. Tensions were beginning to rise between the US and Russia, as a number of European nations and Australia came together in an attempt to force Russia to listen to reason. International trade sanctions were imposed against Russia after it annexed Crimea. Putin claimed that Khrushchev made an error in 1954 when he gave Crimea to the Ukraine. He also claimed that it was an issue of Russia's national security as it had its largest fleet sanctioned in Crimea.

The Horsemen Cross the Steppes of Ukraine, took time to look at the history of the region and that of the stern yet charismatic Vladimir Putin. On the homefront Putin could do no wrong; as far as much of the rest of the world, they saw Putin as power hungry and dangerous to world stability. All the sanctions simply proved to be useless. Fighting in Ukraine continued with the innocent residents in towns and villages paying the ultimate price for the power struggle. Now some ten months after the article was published, little if anything is heard in the news and the daily UN updates at one time peppered with stories of casualties now have their interest turned elsewhere.

History finds itself so often dealing with such rapid and dramatic changes. Human beings will throw stones over the fence at each other screaming threats and insults, only to find another bunch who scream louder or use bigger stones. Whether it is world wars or more isolated incidents such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, humanity cannot cure itself of its addiction to power. All too often the lust for power is partnered with violence and destruction. Our headlines are constantly filled with images of fleeing refugees looking to escape the violence and find a peaceful life.

Power is an enormously strong lure, cruelty and violence follow it hand in hand, yet how can we come to grips with the monstrous cruelty displayed by poachers as they kill and hack defenseless beasts? Poaching has reached epidemic proportions and it is capable of wiping out whole species of animals. Rhinos, elephants, tigers and more are threatened to extinction simply to satisfy insane superstitions or to be carved into trinkets, while others are hunted for trophies to be stuck onto walls.

Public attention is growing and attempts are being made to combat this horror. A group of caring and concerned individuals have come together with an idea to save the rhino. The concept is audacious and at the same time the only truly feasible plan to save the African rhino from extinction. Kill rates are beginning to outnumber new births and this situation will only get worse. It was because of this The Australian Rhino Project found life; Mayorgate's article The Australian Rhino Project, can it be the answer? interviewed the founder Ray Dearlove to understand what the goal was, and it was rather simple.

Ray Dearlove and the Australian Rhino Project want to set up a breeding herd of African rhinos in Australia. Once or if the poaching stops, then the rhino would be placed back into the wild in Africa. The Australian Rhino Project has the support and backing of both the South African and Australian governments. Fundraising has slowly produced results but when a total of $80 million US dollars is needed, the going is tough. Exposure, public awareness and corporate sponsorship is mandatory for success.

After some international topics Mayorgate's attention turned again towards its hometown with the article City of St.Catharines' By-Laws, what's up with that?. As citizens in a democratic country we are bound by a series of laws to ensure the equality and security of life. These laws range from the upper tier federal level all the way down to municipalities and their by-laws. In Canada the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians equal treatment before the law regardless of what level of law is considered. So it had been difficult to understand how in a city like St. Catharines that equality has apparently been ignored.

There were two issues at the centre of the article. One was quickly resolved with the co-operation of Mayor Walter Sendzik. The other has lingered for more than five years. In those five years one individual had found that he could do as he pleased with apparent protection from any consequence by City employees at high levels. Here Mayor Walter Sendzik proved he was no different to his predecessor Brian McMullan, and the travesty of abuse of law and equality continues.

The articles may have been fewer yet each found a thread connecting the topic to the most base ideas of humanity. We can do great things and we can at the same time destroy a great deal. Issues that bounce around the concepts of law, equality and quality of life, are of equal importance on a wider scale as they are at home. After all those concepts of freedom and security of society do not shrink in importance depending on the size of the theatre, and a troupe of performers travel to preform their acts with equal motivation on a larger stage as one not so grand. Our propensity towards violence and cruelty has sadly been a major component of humanity's evolution. Whether this cruelty is aimed at each other or at other defenseless creatures we share this earth with, it is always destructive and we cannot ignore it simply because it does not impact us personally.

Mayorgate strives to bring a wide range of topics, yet at the same time each has a thread of commonality and a link to who we are as people striving towards the future. Some battles had been lost, other battles are won – regardless Mayorgate does not apologise for its existence, nor will Mayorgate remove itself or any article from reader's access. As far as miniseries are concerned, they are still in play and the cheeky monkeys will not concede defeat.

Defeat comes through fear and through complacency. All the articles on Mayorgate find a thread of commonality linking them: a thread that attaches us to the earth itself. Each and every one of us is responsible for the future.

At the turn of the new year into 2016, Mayorgate published We're Drowning in Thirst, not only as a review of the passing year but more of a reality check on where we are heading as a collection of nations. The Paris Agreement brought international coverage to the single most pressing issue we collectively face.

Once again environmentalists raised their hands into the air singing chorus after chorus of hallelujah. According to so many of them the planet was saved, though none of them wished to look at reality. After all the conferences, after all the fundraising campaigns by these non-profit prophets who tell you that you can save the world with a $25 donation, there stands you. We, together en masse and as individuals, need to change what we do. No international conferences, no famous actor bouncing around the world in a private jet, no pope or head of the UN can change anything. We can, together and as individuals, the future is in our hands, and that is not a cliché.

Mayorgate crosses the finish line for year six and begins anew doing what it does best. Join the monkeys and bring your comments and thoughts with you.