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Homegrown Penicillin

For the past several years, I have been part of the natural homegrown penicillin movement. Scientists officially identified penicillin in the 1920s. However, people have known for a long time that naturally occurring substances such as bread mould will attack and kill the harmful bacteria that cause many human illnesses and infections. For instance, Wikipedia states: “Many ancient cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and in ancient India, already used moulds and other plants to treat infection.…Russian peasants used warm soil as treatment for infected wounds.…Soldiers in the army of king Dutugemunu (161–137 BC) are recorded to have stored oil cakes (a traditional Sri Lankan sweetmeat) for long periods in their hearth lofts before embarking on their campaigns, in order to make a poultice of the cakes to treat wounds.”

So, for the past several years, I have been cultivating my own bread mould and using it to treat various illnesses. This mould can be grown quite simply by placing moist bread in a basement or any warm, damp place. Many users report that homegrown mould is an effective treatment for headaches, nausea, constipation, and depression, as well as more serious diseases. These testimonials from people who have survived the treatment are indisputable proof that it works.

Many people prefer to use the natural, homegrown mould rather than go to a doctor and have him prescribe refined penicillin or some other antibiotic. They don’t really trust the government, the medical profession, or big pharmaceutical companies. Who knows what the big companies put into their drugs? Mostly a bunch of chemicals. Like many other people, I prefer to use something more natural. And the homegrown mould is much cheaper.

More recently, I have sometimes found it easier to buy the mould from a guy I met down on the corner. He swears that what he is selling is pure bread mould, and I have found it to be as good as any I made myself.

I don’t worry too much about the dosage. I just sort of play it by ear. I mean if some is good for you, then it stands to reason that a lot will be even better. In fact, I have started to use some every day as a means to prevent illness. At first, I just ate the mould on a piece of bread. However, recognizing that many illnesses enter the body through the nose, I have found that snorting it up the nose is even more effective.

The homegrown penicillin movement is growing rapidly and gaining increasing acceptance. This is the wave of the future. After all, if this logic works for the marijuana industry, it should work equally well for penicillin. And growing your own pencillin is perfectly legal.


Disclaimer: This is something called satire. Please do not try this at home. And if you do, please do not blame me for your stupidity or sue me. (I am a writer and have no money.) In my opinion, people who ignore scientific evidence and medical safeguards and self-medicate are idiots. Why is this disclaimer necessary? In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift could publish his A Modest Proposal (recommending the skinning and eating of Irish children) in the firm expectation that people would take it seriously but not literally. Today people are much more sophisticated and better educated (and possibly high on marijuana) and will believe any ridiculous thing posted on the Internet.


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The Politics of Hate

Barry Neufeld is a school board trustee in Chilliwack, just east of Abbotsford where I live. He has recently gained notoriety for his stated opposition to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) guidelines issued by British Columbia’s Ministry of Education. These guidelines are not part of the school curriculum but are intended to guide schools in how they handle issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result of Neufeld’s stated position, there have been calls for his resignation from British Columbia’s Minister of Education, the Chilliwack School Board, and others. The non-teaching employees of the Chilliwack School Board have filed a human rights case against Mr. Neufeld and the school board, arguing that his “homophobic” and “transphobic” comments have deprived them of their right to a safe workplace.

I have never met Barry Neufeld, and I don’t know him personally. I don’t know whether he and I would agree on every issue. However, I would like to comment on several issues involved in the current controversy.


  1. Name Calling

Social theorists have rightly opposed applying pejorative and derogatory labels to such groups as racial minorities and homosexuals, pointing out that such labels dehumanize people. However, social theorists on the left wing of the social spectrum, who have often been most vocal against the use of such terms, have sometimes been guilty of using pejorative labels of their own. Almost without thinking, they dismiss those who disagree with them by applying labels such as “bigot,” “Islamophobic,” “homophobic,” “transphobic,” and “anti-choice.” For instance, BC Education Minister Rob Fleming called Mr. Neufeld “bigoted” and “hateful.” Such labels are used to dismiss people like Mr. Neufeld so that those who disagree with him do not have to deal with the issues that Mr. Neufeld raises. They are used to shut down discussion. Mr. Fleming has absolutely no evidence that Mr. Neufeld hates anyone other than that he expressed misgivings about a government policy. Disagreeing with something does not necessarily imply hatred. Disagreeing with the doctrines of Islam does not mean that one hates or fears Muslims. Disagreeing with homosexual practice does not mean that one hates or fears homosexuals. Otherwise, anyone who is not a Christian could justly be labelled Christophobic.


  1. Child Abuse

Mr. Neufeld has said the government’s SOGI guidelines amount to child abuse. This issue needs some consideration. One aspect of this policy is “gender identity.” One provision in the guidelines states that a student should be treated as whatever gender he or she identifies with. So, if a boy thinks he is a girl, he should be treated as a girl and be allowed to dress as a girl and use the girls’ washroom and changing room. This is problematic for both elementary and secondary schools, but for somewhat different reasons. I think the “child abuse” argument relates especially to elementary schools. Pre-puberty, a student doesn’t have a sexual orientation. Moreover, young students are in the process of trying to understand many things, and gender is one of them. Confusion is part of that development process. To increase that confusion is not helpful. I agree with Mr. Neufeld that to encourage an elementary student to choose a sexual identity or make any other binding adult decision is child abuse. I have a grandson who thinks he is Spiderman, but I don’t encourage him to jump off buildings. I have another grandson who says he wants to be a firefighter. This is completely unrealistic as he is not likely to have the physical strength or aptitudes for this occupation. Of course, I haven’t actively discouraged his idea, but I haven’t enrolled him in firefighting school either. I know that he is likely to change his mind many times before he becomes an adult.

And what about the effect on other students? Think about the girls who now have to share a washroom and changing room with a boy who thinks he is a girl. What kind of confusion and discomfort will this cause them? Or does their right to feel safe and comfortable in school not matter?

When someone such as Mr. Neufeld raises questions about policies such as SOGI, those questions should at least be discussed and answered rather than simply dismissing him as “hateful.” Maybe discussing the issue will convince Mr. Neufeld he is wrong, or maybe the discussion will lead to changes and improvements in the policy or how it is implemented. But shutting down the discussion and shunning people like Mr. Neufeld does not solve anything. It suggests that the SOGI guidelines are so flawed that they cannot stand up to criticism and debate.


  1. Track Record

Defining Mr. Neufeld as “hateful” means that any other qualities he has can be ignored. It dehumanizes him. But a little research reveals some interesting things. Mr. Neufeld has been a school trustee for 24 years. Among other qualifications, he has a BA in adolescent psychology from Simon Fraser University, a certificate in conflict resolution from the Justice Institute of British Columbia, a certificate in life skills from the University of the Fraser Valley, and an MA in chaplaincy from Associated Canadian Theological Schools. He is apparently a member of an Eastern Orthodox Church, where he occasionally preaches to an Arabic congregation. On the school board, he says his most fulfilling work was being part of the First Nations Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee looking for ways to increase the success of Aboriginal students. He has also served as an interfaith prison chaplain and in a Christian ministry to inmates in correctional institutions. He is also heavily involved in a ministry that helps people recover from divorce. This is hardly the picture of someone who is hateful, bigoted, or overly judgemental.


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Racism and the Gerald Stanley Jury

Put yourself in the place of the jurors in the Gerald Stanley trial. (Stanley is the Saskatchewan farmer who shot Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man who was on Stanley’s property.) Out of a sense of civic duty, you agree to spend weeks away from your family and your regular job in order to sit on a jury. As compensation, you are given a ludicrously low payment—nowhere near minimum wage, let alone the many thousands of dollars the lawyers and judge are paid. For weeks, you listen to detailed evidence and testimony. You wrestle with what should be the proper verdict in a complex and murky case in which none of those involved is blameless. When you finally reach a verdict, the prime minister of Canada, who has not spent all that time listening to the evidence, declares that your verdict is wrong, implying that you are a racist since you are a white juror who unjustly exonerated a white defendant. Under Canadian law, you cannot even defend yourself against this very public accusation by the most powerful man in the country. And he is not alone in making the accusation.

Given all this, who in his right mind would ever agree to serve on a jury?

Racism is a serious issue, and there are significant racial tensions between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan, as well as elsewhere in Canada. But accusing the Stanley jurors of racism just because they are white is unwarranted. Racism does not exist only among white people, and not all white people are racist.

The jurors might be racist, but none of the critics has produced any evidence of this by checking into their backgrounds and attitudes. They have just assumed it because the jurors were white. In this case, it was not the jurors who saw a complex situation only in terms of race. It was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other critics.

As an aside, it seems that it is not even known for sure that the jury was all white since that information is not made public. The Boushie family complained that “the jury didn’t appear to have any visibly Indigenous people.” Even if it is true that there were no Indigenous people on the jury, it does not necessarily follow that the jury members were all white. After all, Canada is a multiracial country, and some might have belonged to other races or have had mixed ancestry.


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How We Did It

A little while ago, my wife and I quietly celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. Many friends our age and many people at our church just accepted this milestone as a normal part of married life. The week we were celebrating our 37th anniversary, the man sitting next to me in church was celebrating his 73rd anniversary.

People we have met elsewhere have found this news remarkable. They look at us as if we had just climbed Mount Everest barefoot or found a cure for cancer, demanding, “How did you do it?!”

Frankly, it wasn’t that hard. Some of those 39 years have even been enjoyable. In fact, from our point of view, our 39 years of marriage feel more like a blessing than an achievement. But, for those who may still be wondering, here are some of my thoughts on what makes a successful marriage.

  1. Gratitude

Here is what I have discovered. Men, if a woman has agreed to marry you, committed to live with you for the rest of your life, and granted you the extraordinary privilege of being intimate with her, you ought to be overwhelmed with gratitude. You should wake up every morning in utter amazement at your good fortune—unless you think that you are such a wonderful person that lightning is likely to strike twice. Don’t count on it. I know many wonderful, loving, intelligent people who have never been fortunate enough to find one spouse. What makes you so special? If you have been lucky enough to have acquired a wife, you should value her and treasure her as the remarkably precious gift she is. She may well be irreplaceable. And women, you should feel the same level of gratitude if you have been fortunate enough to have found a man willing to marry you.

  1. Giving and Serving

When my wife and I went to school, we were taught about virtues such as serving others and being useful to others. Nowadays, school children are taught to follow their dreams, with the promise that they can achieve anything they want. Accordingly, many people now enter marriage with a long list of the things they expect to receive from marriage. That is not love. That is selfishness. Many in the Me Generation are not equipped to think in terms of the other or even in terms of “us.” Any marriage in which the two partners are focused on what they will receive is doomed to failure. If they have real love, spouses enter marriage focused on what they can do for each other. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your spouse can do for you. Ask what you can do for your spouse.” I remember once being at an informal party with my wife. She finished eating first, went to get a coffee, and asked if I wanted one too. Some others watching were appalled that she would lower herself to serve a man. The thing is that if I had finished first, I would have offered to get her a coffee and not thought twice about it. Two people in a constant battle for supremacy will never make a successful marriage. On the other hand, two people trying their best to serve each other will receive far more than the two of them can ever give.

  1. Realistic Expectations

The media do not help us here. Movies, popular songs, and romance novels teach women to expect a husband who is “tall, dark, and handsome” when the reality is that many men are short, bald, and ordinary. Besides looks, women expect a man who is sensitive, cultured, romantic, compassionate, generous, and rich. Men expect to marry a beauty queen who cooks like their mother, keeps the house spotless, and does most of the work of raising the children while holding down a well-paying job. Even more than that, many spouses expect their mate to meet all of their needs, provide their purpose for living, and fulfill all of their dreams. Popular songs say things such as, “You are my reason for living…You mean everything to me…You are my everything…You are all I need…” Such statements are not compliments or expressions of love. They are demands for perfection. That is a role no human being can possibly fill. Human beings are not God. Even on the human level, marriage is a wonderful relationship, but it is not the only human relationship, and a spouse cannot be expected to be all things. If your husband won’t go with you to chick flicks or if your wife won’t go with you to football games, then it does not matter. These things can be shared with friends with similar tastes. Many marriages fall apart under the burden of unrealistic expectations.

  1. Tolerance

After a couple get married, they soon begin to discover that there are flaws and weaknesses in the other that they had never expected. My wife certainly did. Maybe couples should have anticipated these things, but often they have not. Now, each spouse should act considerately, try to give the other person what he or she needs, adapt, and even compromise. There is no excuse for inconsiderate behaviour or lack of effort in a marriage. But there is a limit to how much a person can change. It might be that a spouse is simply not capable of being neat, thinking up beautifully romantic gestures, being comfortable in a crowd, or any number of other things. It is impossible to turn a slob into a neat freak or a recluse into a social butterfly. The little irritants that wreck many marriages include annoying habits, disagreements over housekeeping, and different tastes and styles. When one spouse discovers a flaw in the other, he or she will have to make a decision. He or she can end the marriage, spend the next few decades trying to change the other person and arguing about it—or simply accept reality and learn to live with it. There are certain things that should not be tolerated, including unfaithfulness, abuse, addiction, and criminal behaviour. But most marriages do not break up over serious issues but over an accumulation of silly little irritants. A successful marriage requires keeping in mind the big picture and being tolerant of small failures and annoying habits.

  1. Teamwork

It is also helpful for spouses to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. A friend of mine said marriage is not a 50-50 proposition but a 100 percent proposition. For a marriage to be whole, there must be a 100 percent effort. If, in one area, one spouse, when doing his or her best, is only capable of providing 10 percent, the other spouse must try to provide the other 90 percent. Doing only “my share” is simply not good enough. A marriage is a team, not a contract between two perfect people.

  1. Faithfulness

Nowadays, when people are sexually promiscuous before marriage and unfaithful during marriage, sexual purity seems like a quaint concept. But a couple who have only ever had sex with each other have a unique and powerful bond. There is a level of trust and intimacy, unburdened by baggage from previous relationships.

  1. Help

My wife and I got married in our church, surrounded by relatives and friends. Due to distance, many were not able to attend, so shortly afterward we made a trip to have further celebrations with more family members and friends. Many modern couples get married in Las Vegas or on a tropical beach with at most a handful of people they know present and sometimes none at all. The difference is symbolic and significant. Many couples nowadays think that all they need is each other. That attitude speaks of arrogance and overconfidence. If it takes a village to raise a child, a village can also help with a marriage. My wife and I have received much helpful advice and good modelling from parents and grandparents and other older, more experienced couples. Even other couples the same age have provided support, a listening ear, and helpful suggestions. At times, we have found pastors and professional counsellors to be helpful, not necessarily to provide help with the marriage relationship itself but with other issues we encountered. We have also benefitted from marriage courses and various other types of teaching on marriage and family life offered by churches.

  1. God

My wife and I are committed Christians. If God is love and the source of love, then it makes sense to seek His help. Marriage has been much easier because we have tried to live our lives God’s way, prayed for His blessing, and been guided and helped by God’s Holy Spirit.


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The Machinery

This is not a poetry blog, but occasionally I will post new poems such as the one below:


The machinery is old,

repeatedly breaking down.

Some parts have been repaired,

others replaced entirely.

Some are missing.


it is taking an inordinate amount

of time and energy

just to keep the machinery running,

with little thought given to

whether anything is being produced.

It has been a long time

since it maintained a production schedule

that could be counted on.

If it doesn’t produce anything,

is it still a machine?

Does it belong in a place of honour

in a museum,

loved and admired but no longer used?

Perhaps it is time to reflect

on past production successes,

to express gratitude,

and to contemplate the time

when this old machine will be melted down

and remade into something new.

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The Democrats’ Dilemma

Members of the Democratic Party in the United States seem to have learned little in the past few months.

As Donald Trump’s ridiculous and dangerous words and deeds mount up, they conclude, “See, we told you. Americans should have voted for Hillary Clinton.” Hillary Clinton herself is on a book tour whose purpose seems to be to proclaim, “I should have won.” Democrats are still fighting the 2016 election. It is pointless. That election is over. They lost.

Let me be clear. In my opinion, Donald Trump is an impulsive, reckless, self-centred, narrow-minded fool (that is, “a person who acts unwisely or imprudently”). But that was clear before the election. What Democrats have failed to admit face-on is the fact that millions of Americans chose to vote for a fool rather than Hillary Clinton. Instead of proclaiming, “See, we were right all along,” Democrats need to do some serious soul-searching. They need to ask themselves, “Why would so many Americans vote for Donald Trump?”

To begin with, Democrats might consider why they chose Hillary Clinton to be their presidential candidate when she had her own share of moral failings and narrow-minded policies (although in different directions). But what I am getting at is something that goes far beyond Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The division in American society was not created by Donald Trump, and Democrats need to recognize their own role in deepening the division. The two solitudes have existed for a long time. The liberal, urban, secular coasts are very different from the conservative, rural, religious center of the country. (That is a vast oversimplification but useful nonetheless.)

Instead of demanding that people in the center of the country get with it and unite around values they don’t share, Democrats should start figuring out ways to bridge the gulf between the two solitudes. This is not going to happen as long as Democrats dismiss Trump’s supporters—half of the US population—as racist, homophobic, women-hating bigots.

Again, let me be clear. There are plenty of bigots in the US. But not all of the people who voted for Donald Trump are bigots. Hillary Clinton’s supporters should try to understand the position of at least some of those people.

Imagine a wife and mother in the Midwest. She loves her children. But what she hears from Democrats like Hillary Clinton is that she is not a real woman unless she takes a pair of scissors, drives the scissors into the skulls of her children, and sucks out their brains. Democrats call it “an exercise of women’s rights,” but it is a brutal practice called partial-birth late-term abortion, a practice that Hillary Clinton voted not to outlaw. A mother who loves her children is understandably unwilling to vote for anyone who condones the practice. Democrats need to at least try to understand how their policies are perceived in the hinterland.

Or consider the position of a working class American husband and father. He goes to church, he loves his wife, and he tries hard to raise his sons to be moral, responsible adults. He doesn’t particularly hate homosexuals or lesbians. However, the Democrats insist that he is a prude and a bigot unless he approves not only of homosexuality but also of sexual promiscuity and public nudity. How does he square that attitude with his responsibilities as a father?

Or consider the position of an American Roman Catholic. The Democrats introduced Obamacare, a universal medical system—something which Roman Catholics, with their tradition of supporting social justice, might be expected to support. But the Democrats didn’t just introduce a medical insurance plan. They used it as a lever to force Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic institutions to violate their consciences by funding abortions. How could a devout Roman Catholic support a party that did that, a party that treated his sincerely held beliefs with contempt?

These people voted for Donald Trump because the Democrats didn’t offer them a palatable alternative. In many cases, they were interested in policies and issues more than in the warped personalities of the candidates.

If the Democrats want to replace Donald Trump and his cohorts with less foolish political leaders, they need to stop forcing average Americans to choose between fools on the right and fools on the left. If they want to attract middle America, they are going to have to at least make the attempt to understand, or even empathize with, middle America.

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Hollywood Is Not Holywood

For years, Hollywood has been producing movies and TV shows focused on sex and violence. Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax Films and the other companies he was involved with were often at the head of the pack. Who could have guessed that what Hollywood’s leaders were putting on the screen they were also practicing behind the screen?

The promotional material put out by actresses’ agents and publicists often outlines how much on-screen nudity and sexual activity the actresses are willing to engage in. What they will do behind the scenes is not put into writing. However, for generations, there has been a tradition of Hollywood actresses “sleeping their way to the top.” It was a trade-off that at least some actresses were willing to make—as long as they got the part. The odd thing, perhaps, is that these actresses expected the unscrupulous producers and directors they were dealing with to hold up their end of the bargain.

Make no mistake. People who use their position of power to gratify their own sexual desires are predators who deserve to be in prison (as I am sure Bill Clinton would agree).

It is also true that there are actresses, actors, directors, and producers who do not engage in immoral practices, either on screen or off. There are undoubtedly innocent victims who were sexually abused without even a hint of consent.

And it is a good thing that actresses are now speaking out against the sexual abuse going on in their industry. It might be a little more convincing if some of the actresses speaking out weren’t dressed provocatively, but why quibble?

It is just that I get a little cynical when Hollywood starts lecturing the rest of society on moral issues.