Saturday 22 May 2021


 they look so small and frail

but they are so great and magnificent

they are born of the same womb

that birthed the cosmos

and knitted together the galaxies

if you could see them as they are

you would be astounded

you would see not little children

but dancing clouds of light

energy in motion

swimming in an ocean of love

they are so much more than what you see

as are you

William Martin

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching

I used to love Star Trek (still do).  Ok, removing all the goo, Gene Roddenberry was really onto something with that show that evolved into many wonderful segments, like a jigsaw puzzle eventually becoming a clear picture.  One of those brisky bits that really moved me was the idea of a Prime Directive.  

The Directive ultimately came to fruition during the Next Generation series with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frake in the early 90s and lasted 7 seasons.  In short, it’s a guiding principle of Starfleet, prohibiting its members from interfering with the internal and natural development of alien civilizations.  It is almost biblical in its’ depth and fundamental understanding of human nature; coming from a place of timeless wisdom and humility.  I became fascinated with the idea rivalling the allegorical musings of Tolstoy or Huxley and all presented in an entertaining one hour television show on Sunday nights.

You see, within the Star Trek universe, The Prime Directive is a crucial regulation that has all encompassing ramifications in terms of how humanity can sustain itself and evolve peacefully over many millennia.  That said; it is rarely practiced.   

It is in our primal nature to interfere with other countries, cultures, families, friends and lovers.  To recreate them in our own image … to change them in order to fulfill our basic needs because we are fundamentally at the center of our own universe; omnipotent and oppressive.  Going ‘where no man has gone before’ means making them one of us and has become a more pragmatic premise.  In the practice of foreign relations, acquisitions in commerce, or even in the day to day running of a family, the Prime Directive is nothing more than a lofty idea lacking in practicality and absent of common sense.  

With little regard of self or mission; no interference with the social development of said planet (or person), no reference to shared space, other worlds or advanced civilizations can we actually live together.  Ok, looks great on TV but doesn’t work in the real world.  Right?  Ironic, that such an iconic principle can be relegated to mere fiction but that’s just how it works.  Better to fantasize than realize. 

The Directive reflects both a consequentialist commitment to reducing harm and a Kantian commitment to respecting the autonomy of others.  Built into it is an assumption that cultures are better off if left to their own devices (whether those “devices” are social practices or concrete technologies). Interference by Starfleet, even if well-intentioned, is judged likely to mess things up in unanticipated ways — and if the culture in question is to deal with unintended harms, it would be better if they result from the culture’s own free choices. This embodies a kind of anti-colonialist ethos, a commitment to respecting a civilization's own values, beliefs, and practices rather than forcing “better” ones upon them. (Recall that the original run of Star Trek coincided with the Vietnam War, American involvement in which made a policy of non-interference look pretty good to many viewers).  It's in our nature to be helpful.

Maybe this is why the Prime Directive is not an exceptionless rule:  Even if Starfleet ought not to play God, nor to use its superior technologies to correct with coercion, ultimately ethics may require that we trust members of other civilizations to choose their own paths even as they grapple with the possibilities presented by contact with Starfleet.  Sharing a universe is in itself a kind of intervention. The trick is finding a way to share it on equal terms, but as long as our interests become myopic, will there be conflict and thus the constructive conclusion.  A benign benevolence just isn't practical.  That said … there is something quite liberating in non-interference even though the practice is often difficult to sustain.  It is in our intrinsic natures to express our opinions and to impose our wills on others … especially our children - those we 'love'.  Finding that balance between guidance and imposition is easier said than done.  

I was an education counsellor at a private vocational (post-secondary) school for 4 years a decade ago.  I hated it but learned one thing.  In sales (as in life itself), there’s persuasion and there’s manipulation and there’s really no way of measuring where one ends and where the other begins and ... resistance is futile. 

What comes up for me in this careful closure is my first ‘zen experience’ (circa 1985) … 

yet another tall tale (true story).

My younger brother and I bought two kites and on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we trekked down to the Thames River near Woodstock to fly them.  Dave always had a way with these things as his kite went up effortlessly and in minutes.  He laid back on the grass, lit up a smoke and watched it sail beautifully over the river.  I struggled with mine for at least an hour.  It crashed several times in a plowed, muddy field and when I finally did manage to get it up (no pun intended) … it wasn’t positioned right.  It was over the field, not the river.  

I continued to struggle with it until I eventually lost my patience and tied the damned thing to a bush, not caring if it crashed again.  Frustrated, I went for a walk along the rivers edge and when I turned to look a couple of minutes later; I was shocked to see that my white kite was gliding beautifully … over the river!  

My life hasn’t been quite the same since.

P R I M E  D I R E C T I V E
a covid lockdown production



Wednesday 5 May 2021


It's a boy's life ...

On October 31 1966 just after 10pm, my mother left my father, taking us to live with our Grandma Batho who lived nearby.  My Grandmother was deaf.  It was a surreal time.  

I instinctively knew that the marriage was on thin ice (even as a kid), but had no idea what was happening that dark & chilly halloween night at 980 Sloane Street Woodstock, Ontario; in the north-east corner of our small conservative city in southwestern Ontario.  A large truck pulled up, minutes after Dad left for work (night shift) as a dispatcher at Overland Express; a new job that he hated, and it was quietly filled with furniture, then poof.  

She took ‘half’ is what she claimed later on but it was more than that … all loaded into Granny’s house to the point where you could barely move on her ground floor/cellar.  Dad came home at 6am the next morning to an abandoned house (his family gone) and I'm guessing that he lost his shit.  What ensued in the months/years to come cannot be described.  I was 10, having had a handful of friends in the neighbourhood - gone forever.

Dad was rarely home, having been a travelling salesman up until a few months previous and when he was home, he was absent.  Spending most of his time (weekends) in the basement alone, drinking and watching a small black & white TV that got 5 blurry channels.  Dad loved hockey.  Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights (brought to you by Esso/Imperial Oil), is where we sometimes bonded.  It was all about the Toronto Maple Leafs!  Watching Davy Keon scoring a hat trick was a highlight in our time together.  On Saturday mornings, he drove me to the Perry St. arena to play in the minor hockey squirt league while he watched. I wanted to make him proud of me but I sucked.

He was damaged goods.  Moving from Woodstock to North Bay when he was 14 to become a telegraph operator, some time in the army after that ... alienated from his family early on - beaten by his father as a boy.  Married, kids (because that was part of the drill).  He crashed, drunk in bed (beside Mom late) or passed out on a sofa in the finished rec room downstairs (bar & beer fridge) and whenever they talked, it was an argument. She was miserable.  Dad accused her of flirting with other men.  So what if she did?  Could you blame her?  She was a beautiful and vibrant young woman who essentially lived alone and raising 2 boys on her own (and had the rest of her life in front of her).

Robert Baden-Powell
founder and first Chief Scout of the world-wide Scout Movement

Getting out was her only recourse.  There was a frosty formation in the stratosphere that late spring '66.  Change was on the horizon, especially for women.  Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots Were Made for Walkin' was a hit on the radio and feminism (women's lib) was just a whisper amongst housewives sick & tired of their husband's bullshit, and yet quietly continuing to comply because rockin' the boat was just an idea too risky to test out.  It's a clear memory.

Weeks later at Grannys, Mom, realizing that I was hurting, signed me up for Cub Scouts which congregated on Wednesday evenings at St Michael’s Church basement on Devonshire (a few blocks from where we lived with Dad) - thinking the social interaction and ‘male nurturing’ would be good for me.  It was a noble gesture coming from a place of innocence and desperation, knowing that it was just a temporary fix, thinking that maybe she might meet a new man who would take an interest in my little brother and me, while providing her with some quality companionship.  

That never happened.  

So right … Boy Scouts; November 1966.  I was to bring $6 on my first visit to the scout meeting, to cover the cost of my uniform & cap which I got (used); all of it way too big for me.  When the scout leader (man) gave me my white scarf (brown leather band), he said that I would get the orange scarf (what the other boys were wearing), when I could recite the Scout’s code “pledge” that I was to memorize for the following meeting.  Reading it (first time that night) on the sheet of paper gave me a knot in my stomach.  

I hated it … this whole preparation for the military exercise just felt rotten.  When I got home later, I cried in bed, not wanting to go back but Mom insisted … telling me it would get better.  It didn’t.

I was introduced to ‘pack mentality’ early on.  Thinking back; it all being part of some hideous ‘survival’ strategy.  Learning how to grow up and be a man kind of thing.  The other kids had no interest in me and stuck together in clumps.  I felt alone and isolated in those meetings.  When I stood to recite the pledge under florescent lights on that second week (first thing on the agenda), I was extremely nervous and forgot the words and flubbed it, even having spent hours memorizing the dozen or so lines of stark prose.  All the kids (about 12 of them) openly laughed and I was told I would have to continue wearing the white scarf until I could say the oath by heart without making a mistake.  

Punishment came with the territory and it was expected.  I wore the frikkin' white scarf for weeks never getting to orange.  A big part of the problem was that I didn’t want to say it.  Something around pledging allegiance to God, the Queen and my country crap.  I was just 10 but could still smell the hypocrisy a mile away, only then it was just a lie.  

The pledge/oath represented everything I hated about my brief Scout experience … promising to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight (something along those lines).  


You see, the Scout Law and Oath embodied the joint values of the Scouting movement all over the world, binding all Scouting associations together.  Patriotic Nationalism for impressionable boys.  Such a valiant cause.  The emphasis on “learning by doing" providing rich experiences and hands on orientation as a practical method of learning and confidence building.  Just what we needed.  Small groups working together, building unity and a close-knit fraternal atmosphere to develop responsibility, character, self-reliance and self-confidence, reliability, and readiness; which would eventually lead to collaboration and leadership (or so was the goal).  A program of progressive and attractive varying activities expanding a Scouts' horizons and bonding the Scout even more to the collective.  

Activities and games developing dexterity and providing a fun way to develop skills.  In an outdoor setting, these also providing contact with nature and the environment.  All super healthy stuff right?

Early December, we went on a Saturday afternoon ‘nature hike’ down by the Thames River.  It was cold and wet but that’s part of the experience, obviously designed to toughen us up, learning to make a fire, tie knots and shoot a bow & arrow.  I was bullied by the older boys that day while the Scout leader watched and did nothing.  

All part of the training.  

G. J. (Jim) LaMarche (center)
circa 1944

To this day; “Duty to God" is a principle of worldwide Scouting; Scouting organizations in different nations apply it differently to their membership policies. The Boy Scouts of America takes a strong position, excluding atheists.  Looking back, it’s like there was no room for individuality.  Strength can only exist in the group. Years later and in researching the Scout movement, I learned that it was all started by a British Army Officer.  Robert Baden-Powell in the early 1900s.  Son of a Reverend Professor, launching the Boy Scouts Association first in the U.K. then U.S. then internationally by 1960.  He was later criticized for being a racist, misogynist homophobe and his statue being removed in Poole England in 2020, decades after he died.  Robert Baden-Powell immortalized?  Never to be.  

The birthplace of the Scout movement hanging in shame.  Pressing on.  We must never surrender.

H E V E N L Y  F A T H E R

a covid lockdown production

Today, the Boy Scouts Association is tattered and torn in every colonialized country it’s in and especially in the U.S. where it’s facing extinction; financially strapped with numbers dwindling.  Dad was heartbroken but would never admit it; slowly disintegrating in the years following; living alone in a tiny apartment in Woodslee Ontario for years until he secretly drifted into oblivion in September 2002.  As for Mom, she moved on without him; in & out of multiple empty relationships with men, all basically with the same hangups until she passed away in July 2004.  

That said, she was successful in making her point, that was long overdue ... way ahead of her time.  

That one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.