Moving Towards a More Tolerant Society

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I have managed, over time, to develop a courteous association and friendship with a young woman on social media. We have never met in person, although, from time-to-time, I think about her as I would my own adult daughter(s). I genuinely do care about her well-being and that of her family as they start a new chapter of their life in North America. We share a love for reading, writing, and history. We value the liberal democracies that we live in, and tend to look at modern culture, religion and politics from a moderate point of view.

Although we have grown up in remarkably different societies, we share a strong interest in understanding the world that we live in, including the desire to step out of the ordinary in order to truly understand the extraordinary. For a young woman, she possesses an incredible amount of wisdom and grace, pointing to many positive influences in her life including, perhaps, immediate family and friends. It is almost as though I know how she thinks and feels  – a kindred spirit as it were. We may not always agree on various aspects of modern culture, politics, and religion, but I value her directness, honesty, and that ever-so-British politeness.

I think that is what tolerance is all about – learning to listen to the points of view and perspectives of others without being dismissive and/or judgemental. It is when we genuinely care about the lives of others in a personal way, that the dividing walls of gender, race, religion, country of origin, politics, etc., come tumbling down.

I may have developed very strong convictions and beliefs in the religious and political arenas, but God help me if I neglect to LOVE another human being. Alas, this is where the rubber meets the road – loving others and exercising tolerance for individuals and whole societies that differ from our own.

There are many views of love and an equal amount of opinions on the subject. The love that I am referring to is something I am still working on – a work in progress, so to speak.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Recently, I read an excellent article, an opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria, published on CNN in June of 2016. Fareed could rightfully be considered as a moderate, who attempts to correctly differentiate between Islamic terrorists and ordinary Muslim people. Fareed, in discussing the current conflicts, asks the question:

How can we bring an end to this?

And then provides a succinct answer:

There’s really only one way: Help the majority of Muslims fight extremists, reform their faith, and modernize their societies. In doing so, we should listen to those on the front lines, many of whom are fighting and dying in the struggle against jihadis. The hundreds of Muslim reformers I’ve spoken to say their task is made much harder when Western politicians and pundits condemn Islam entirely, demean their faith, and speak of all Muslims as backward and suspect.

I tend to agree with him. Islam is not a stagnant belief system any more than Judaism and Christianity. Muslims around the world do want to reform their faith and modernize their societies. When one takes exception with Islamic terrorism, and works towards the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in society, they are moving in the right direction. We may not concur on various elements of our respective faiths, but we can live in peace and mutual prosperity, demonstrating tolerance, respect, and love towards each other.

Utopianism you say? I know…I get a lot of flak from friends and foes alike when I publicly espouse the ideals of freedom of religion and conscience in society. Yes, I lean towards being an idealist who expects great things, not only in myself, but in others also. I hold on to the biblical concept that “we are our brothers keeper” wholeheartedly, and try to extend the same grace towards those outside of my own inner circle.

I am also a realist and truly understand, from my own life experience, how difficult it is for even like-minded people to mesh together in a continual peaceful coexistence. Nevertheless, if the Jewish and Muslim people of the Middle East could peacefully coexist for hundreds of years (before the tragic wars of modern times), there is hope for North American cultural, religious, and political plurality.

Fareed Zakaria said it best:

But if America is about anything, it is the idea that people should be judged as individuals with individual liberties and rights.

I agree with his sentiments. If that makes me a Liberal, so be it.

Silton Sizzler: A Day to Remember

 

 

A beautiful day for a ride to Silton, Saskatchewan. Clear, sunny skies and the typical prairie winds made for a challenging road ride on Saturday. I love long endurance rides (110+km) over hilly terrain like this, as there is so much to see and experience. One can sense the Fall season moving in very quickly. September will be here soon, and the many Century rides (100km and 160km events) that are so typical for cyclists to participate in at this time of year. The Fall season is always a transition period for road cyclists. Some are looking forward to the cyclocross season, and others (myself included) begin earnest preparation for the winter cross country skiing season.

The good news is that Summer is still here and that there is plenty of time to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather. I hope to do a little travelling out west over the next few weeks and do what I do best.

Eat, sleep, ride, rinse, and repeat 🙂

A special thank-you to fellow cyclist and Prairie Randonneur, David Macneil for taking these photographs. I added a little of my own special sauce (edits) to make them really shine 😉

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Tiger Lilly in the Wind

Tiger Lilly In The Wind from Bruce Kraus on Vimeo.

A slow motion rendition of a Tiger Lilly in the Wind.

Video shot with a Panasonic Lumix G6 with a 14-42 lens; Edited and colour corrected in DaVinci Resolve on a MacBook Air.

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I don’t do STUPID any more…

clueless

The first time I heard the statement, I don’t do stupid, I burst out laughing. A young man in his late twenties was expressing his exasperation at the stupidity of an individual who was attempting to enforce a set of ridiculous proceedures and methodology in the workplace.

The scene was a large automobile dealership. As a relatively new employee, the obviously intelligent young man asked a simple question:

Why do we do things this way, when there is a much simpler and easier way to go about it?

That is when the cow manure hit the proverbial fan. After all, new employees, especially young people, are not supposed to ask questions and challenge the holy grails of methodology and procedure in the workplace.

This is the way we have done it for thirty years…just shut up and do what I tell you to do!

The young man looked at his manager straight in the eye and said, “I don’t do stupid“. A week or so later, he handed in his resignation and went to work somewhere else.

Of course, this young person was correct in his idea(s), but could have used a little more finesse in his approach. Unfortunately, management did not see it that way. They were stuck back somewhere in the dinosaur age and were still micromanaging their employees like the 1950’s. Later, this young man was smeared as being lazy, unreliable, and insubordinate. In reality, the top-down management style of this particular dealership had just been put in its rightful place – stupid is as stupid does.

It was not much longer after that I began to signal my own intentions of leaving and my dissatisfaction with the high school mentality of some of the dealership management and many of its relatively uneducated employees. I felt disappointed in myself that I had put up with this nonsense for four years of my life, four long years that I could not get back. Being educated and underemployed in a situation where management and many of my co-worlers had barely got out of high school was NOT a fun situation to be in. This is NOT an expression of arrogance or elitism – it is an expression of frustration of having to work side by side, shoulder to shoulder with CAVEMEN 🙂

My father, a former high school teacher, once said to me, “Ignorance is no excuse”.

What he meant was that instead of wallowing in ignorance, making excuses as to why I couldn’t do something – figure it out. If I do not know how to do something correctly, instead of hanging on to “I don’t know how”, get out there and learn how to do it right.

I think I kind of went overboard on the “learning” part of the equation, spending some seven or eight years in post-secondary education, much to his chagrin 😉 Nevertheless, I do not regret taking the necessary time to get an education, as it has greatly enhanced my understanding of the world I live in. I am not referring to the mass of information that colleges and universities disseminate into the minds of the relatively young. I am talking about the ability to think critically, debate, and to research continually. If anything I have learned through all those years of learning, it was to be a life-long learner.

Unfortunately, for some, learning almost stops after high school. People may adapt to their chosen field of work (and obviously learn new things) but they often remain immersed in the same narrow social and cultural situations as they did in high school. They do not venture outside of that which is comfortable to them, and thus, they never really grow intellectually and often spiritually also.

Of course, one cannot apply this kind of generalization to all people everywhere, but it is certainly true in much of western society.

I have often heard the statement,

Who needs an education…I have street smarts!

Well…what can I say to that? I have street smarts too, and an education! I went back to pursue a post-secondary education later in life BECAUSE of what I learned on the street.

Sorry bud, but street smarts alone do not cut it in the real world.

Again, this particular individual is justifying, for whatever reason(s), that education has no value and that learning on the street, including experiencing the hard knocks of life, is the best approach. I just happen to disagree.

One of the things I learned while working in a far northern health district is that former addicts do NOT always make the best drug and alcohol addiction counsellors. It was a cultural norm and acceptable social reality in the North to hire former addicts with a minimal educational background (certificate or diploma) to serve as addiction counsellors to their own people (the Metis and Aboriginal or Indigenous people of the North). The reality was that a few of these counsellors had an extraordinary high rate of absenteeism in the workplace. When a formal inquiry was made as to why this was happening, nine times out of ten the individual(s) concerned had fallen off the wagon and were once again deep in the grip of their alcohol or drug addiction. The pressures of the workplace, including the normal expectation of the counsellors fulfilling the requirements of their job was too much for some. As soon as management would zero in on a problematic employee, they would go on stress leave for six months costing the health district and the taxpayer a disproportionately large amount of money – only for the cycle to repeat itself over and over again.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I feel great compassion for many of these individuals – one or two of which I would consider to be friends. Addiction of any kind is a horrible thing to overcome. But, the decisions the health district made in hiring and then carrying these ineffectual employees over a long period of time was just plain STUPID, in my opinion. The concept that a supposedly recovered addict with street smarts and a minimal education is ideal as an addiction counsellor is ludicrous to me. The best counsellor we had in the entire health district was an educated young person from another country half way around the world. To the hiring managers and board who held to the old and ineffectual ways of doing things, this came as a great surprise. This person’s success as an addictions counsellor only seemed to amplify management’s own ineffectiveness and narrow point of view.

There is so much more that I would like to write about publicly, but unfortunately I am bound in perpetuity to privacy and procedural contractual obligations, not to mention personal ethics. There is much we can learn from life and living. If we possess a broader framework to comprehensively understand the philosophical, cultural, and religious underpinnings of society, we will do even better. Does any of the above necessitate that everyone should pursue some sort of formal post-secondary education? Of course not! But I can highly recommend venturing out of that which you are accustomed to and comfortable with, in order to truly become a life-long learner – a seeker of truth. Consider developing critical thinking and debating skills, and taking the necessary time to develop research skills – that alone will serve you well your entire life.

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To Grind or Not to Grind: Gravel Riding & Racing in Saskatchewan.

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Master men’s lead group coming out of a tight corner.

A number of people have asked me over the last couple of years why I don’t participate in gravel riding and racing. My standard answer is that I do not own a gravel bike and already have too many bikes in the stable. If an individual presses me a little harder, I will tell them that the agricultural dust and chemicals carried by the perpetually blowing winds in Southern Saskatchewan are some of my asthma triggers, especially during aerobic exercise. Both of the aforementioned are honest answers, the latter being one of the primary reasons why I chose not to grain farm with my dad on a permanent basis so many years ago.

The need to breathe is a primal instinct for survival 🙂

As some of you may know from earlier posts, I had been away from Club cycling for some time before I decided to sign up with Regina Cycling Club (RCC), historically a road racing club in Regina, Saskatchewan. The club was founded by individuals I consider to be friends, although they are closer to my dad’s age than mine. I have met, and continue to meet awesome people through RCC and other cycling clubs locally and elsewhere.

Times have changed, and now gravel riding and racing is a significant part of the club and racing schedule. What I did not realize, until this year, is that there appears to be a bit of tension between traditional road riders and gravel riders in terms of agenda, events, and “air time” within the public discourse on FaceBook (FB).

As for me, I do not want to see the club (RCC) drift too far from its original purpose of being a traditional road racing club with well-organized road races, criteriums, and time trials. Please don’t get all up-in-arms over my personal preference(s) – I am just being honest here. Some of the older riders inside the club have mentioned to me that they do not like the direction we are heading with the heavy emphasis on gravel racing, cyclocross, fat biking, and just about everything else besides road racing. I tend to agree with them and have spoken freely in public forums about it. Nevertheless, a new generation and a few old-timers love gravel riding and racing and are quite vocal about it on the FB public forum also.

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Elite men’s criterium chase group.

To each his/her own. Live and let live? I am getting too old (or too wise) to get involved in the internal squabbles and small-time politics of non-profit clubs, let alone the provincial cycling association.

I must say, though, that I was disappointed in the small turnout to both the Provincial 15km and 40km TT’s and the Criteriums, especially the Elite men’s criterium this year – 4 riders showed up to the starting line. There were no women who entered the criterium races. The Master-aged riders put on a good show though! Sign of the times? I do not know.

Is road racing (in all its disciplines) dying a slow and painful death in Saskatchewan?

Based on a recent conversation with a provincial cycling official, and personal observation, I am beginning to believe that the very principle of volunteerism is dying in our cycling clubs. In other words, it is getting increasingly difficult to secure volunteers for events.

The old guard is still doing the lion’s share of the work and complain of having no one to pass the baton too.

I get that…I really do. I am still being nagged from time to time to volunteer and be involved in the local church that I attend. That church I am referring to is composed of predominantly the Gen-X and Millennial generations. My response is always the same. I have volunteered in various capacities in the church, service clubs, school groups, and sport clubs for over four decades…

…It is time for a younger generation to take the baton and run with it.

Today it seems that local cyclists are more interested in the social aspects and group dynamics of women-specific or age-group clubs and novel venues such as gravel riding/racing than the highly structured sport of road racing (i.e., officials, clearly defined rules and governance). Are the specific disciplines within road racing too hard? Do individuals loath being humiliated and dropped by a raging peloton cruising at 45km+ per hour? My experiences earlier this year was certainly a mixed bag, but I honestly loved every minute of it, whether being out front desperately trying to stay ahead of the scratch group or being dropped unceremoniously from the pack and having to ride solo all the way home.

God knows I want to be back racing with all my heart, but my body, so far, is refusing to cooperate. Patience young Jedi…

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Spring training before the ice is melted on the lake. Photographed in Wascana Park, Regina, Saskatchewan © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

A hundred kilometres of gravel racing in 30C+ heat is no walk in the park either, yet events like this tend to draw a larger crowd and more female participants. This reminds me of the early days of mountain bike riding/racing, of which my generation essentially invented and participated heavily in. Eventually, the wild off-road antics of mountain biking became organized and regulated, partly due to opposition from equestrian riders, hikers, and environmentalists, and partly because of the process of natural evolution, i.e., evolving from a fringe sport to being recognized as a viable Olympic sport.

Only time will tell if gravel riding/racing, which is predominantly a North American phenomenon, will develop and evolve into something more universal like mountain biking did. According to a recent conversation with an employee of a local bike shop, the sale of mountain bikes and city bikes are still the bread and butter of their existence alongside repair services.

Recently, an individual asked a question on FB as to whether there were any paved roads to ride on anymore? I was not sure if his inquiry was tongue-in-cheek or was sincere. No one responded, but I did take the time to write out a response (which I decided NOT to post on FB) that I will share with you here:

I will try to answer your question straight up. There are still lots of rideable paved road routes in and around Regina. The Regina Bypass Project has created a lot of obstacles for road riders to get out of the city somewhat safely. As you probably know, a significantly increased population has led to increased traffic on our major highways, but most of the shoulders are wide and doable. I use ear plugs in high traffic areas on the highway, i.e. one can still hear traffic adequately but much of the high frequency noise and the wind is drowned out. Bright clothing and a powerful rear flashing taillight help out with visibility to traffic.

Others here have mentioned that some of the traditional road routes have been wrecked by chip seal paving and the removal of paved road shoulders completely. It kind of reminds me of riding in some of the rural areas of Scandinavia, Great Britain and Europe now, as we no longer have the privilege of adequate paved shoulders on some of our historical road riding routes.

Although I personally no longer ride gravel or off-road (since the late 1990’s), I can appreciate why others do. Yes, I know it is hard to believe that some of us road gravel back then 🙂 I do know that others in our club (RCC) enjoy the opportunity of discovering new routes, landscapes, and the challenging hills of gravel riding, not to mention less traffic and a much quieter environment. As with road riding, there are pluses and minuses to gravel riding/racing also. Relentless heat, dust, bugs, washboard or freshly graded and loose road surfaces, flying stones from trucks and other farm machinery, no place to restock on water and food, vicious dogs, and shotgun wielding property owners 😉

In the final analysis, cycling is cycling, and I trust that each person involved in our club or the many other cycling clubs in Regina are enjoying the challenges and the sense of community that comes from participating in sport with others of like mind. Cheers!

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