Thursday, July 21, 2011

Internal Affairs

A high profile case in Canada against a retired ex-commander in Afghanistan who has pled guilty to a sexual affair with a subordinate raises some interesting questions about life in the military. But it's not the affair that is truly shocking; it's the Canadian military's strict stance on sexual relations while in times of conflict.

Taken from article (

Military regulations bar soldiers, even married couples, from having intimate relations while on deployment.

Really? Even married couples? Even married couples who may both be deployed on the same mission? It's an odd thought. Now, there may be some very good reasons behind this kind of policy. It may be a way to prevent disorderly conduct or distractions. It may also be a measure put in place to prevent soldiers from taking advantage of the local population. But there's something about forbidding sex altogether while on a mission that just seems unnatural.

The case of Daniel Menard is a particular one and has many strikes against it: on the one hand, he cheated on his wife, on the other hand, it was with a subordinate. The cheating issue can be left to him and his wife to deal with, but the issue of having an affair with a subordinate is inappropriate and an abuse of power, regardless of whether or not the affair is consensual.

But the more interesting part of this issue for me is the fact that the military uses this seemingly outdated rule of banning sex altogether. While it seems unnatural, it also seems unreasonable. For all the excellent qualities that soldiers may have, they're also just human. It's not reasonable to expect that while on a prolonged mission that everyone will be celibate. It's also somewhat unreasonable to think that you can stop a married couple from having relations with each other. It's part of the joy of being married, is it not, to have constant access to sex?

Then there's the fact that you can argue FOR sex in times of extreme duress. It can be incredibly relaxing. Nothing clears the head like a roll in the hay, as they say. And quite frankly, if I was caught up in some sort of situation where it looked like the end was imminent, I might want one last romp in the garden of earthly delights. I actually think that's a pretty normal idea.

I'm not suggesting that the military allows for all sorts of behavior when it's in the middle of a potentially dangerous mission. And I'm definitely not suggesting that they encourage extracurricular activity with the locals or the working girls. But perhaps this regulation needs to be reviewed in light of the fact that there may be married military people who want to be together, quite possibly for the very last time? Or that two equally ranked officers who are both consenting adults may want to get together, even in times of duress?

They may be servicemen, but after all, they are only human.

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Venting Zone

A study has found that venting to a friend while feeling stressed often makes you feel worse, rather than better. The study was conducted at the University of Kent in England and focused largely on those students with perfectionist traits.

Here's what they found:
"Of these, using social support, denial, venting, withdrawing, and self-blame made students feel worse instead of better, the researchers determined. The more the students used these strategies to cope, the less satisfied they felt at the end of the day.

In contrast, the more students used positive reframing, acceptance and humor, the better they felt at the end of the day, the study found."

It's pretty clear that denial withdrawing and self-blame would make any person in any situation feel worse. But venting? Aren't we all part of that post-Victorian era generation that considers venting to be a positive thing so that we don't hold onto things for years until one day we explode? Aren't we also that pro-active group of people who deals with issues head on instead of resorting to violence, gossip or ignorance? How can venting be so bad?

The funny thing about this study is that they conclude that positive reframing, acceptance and humour are the better ways to deal with issues. But all of these things happen AFTER venting- and they are often the results of venting. If we don't talk about the things that bother us, we are a lot less likely to reframe them, accept them and laugh at them.

Any one of these things taken on their own is probably not helpful without the act of venting. And here's why:

Positive reframing- today my boss yelled at me and made me feel like crap for something that was actually his fault. Let's reframe: today my boss paid attention to me. If I said the second part to you without saying the first part, you may actually think that I had a good day when I had a bad day or that my boss is a fair and competent person who values my work. You would be wrong.

Acceptance- I accept the fact that my boss yelled at me for something that was his fault. Well, I'm glad that's over with. Now I can go on with my life.

Laughter- Ha ha ha.

See? None of those 3 things really works without venting.

I think that the main problem with this study is the fact that they may not have the same understanding of what venting is that the rest of us do. Venting, for most people, is not just a question of verbally throwing up on people by spilling out everything under the sun that bothers us. In fact, it can be a constructive way to get at things and analyze them: what bothers us, why it bothers us, and why we shouldn't let it keep bothering us. It is, in fact, a sort of therapy, and a good one at that.

Venting make us feel normal because people tend to agree with us that we're the wronged party in life. They also tend to agree with us that some people can be really stupid or that certain situations can be really bad. As well, it often leads to a reciprocal exchange in which we realize that we're not the only wronged people or that we're not alone in our feelings. It creates empathy and understanding, if it is used positively and if it helps us let go of the issues or emotions that are driving us crazy.

So venting doesn't always lead to solutions. That doesn't mean it's counter-productive. In fact, many of our little life situations don't get resolved. They either go away, sort themselves out, or we can make little choices to change them, like ignore them. Or we can think in relative terms and learn what we should let go of and what we should hold onto. It's part of picking our battles in life.

If I can think of one thing that won't help me when I'm stuck in a rut, or having a bad day, it's keeping it to myself and letting it fester like a sore. Sometimes it's just better to grab a drink and talk it out.

What Makes Putin so Sexy?

Politics in Russia are a seriously sexy affair. From topless pictures of Vladimir Putin fly-fishing waist-high in a river looking ever the sexy outdoorsman, to journalism students posing in lingerie for a calendar for Putin's 58th birthday, to a racy ad campaign urging women to strip their clothes off in support of a presidential bid, it's safe to say that Putin just may be the sexiest Russian politician of all time. As a matter of fact, he may be the sexiest politician of all time all by himself.

This is something of an achievement, unless you've recently walked down a hall of oil paintings and stone busts where the greyheads of the world run things. Sexy and politics tend to not go together very well, although a trend of increasingly younger world leaders seems to disproving that theory. And history has shown that there are exceptions to every rule. The USA had their JFK, Canada had their Trudeaumania, and it seems that Russia's got us beat hands down with Putin or Putinmania. Take that, Cold War naysayers!

Modern Russia is definitely making up for lost time by getting their sexy back. But it appears that Russian feminists are outraged by this type of behavior. Sure, a more open Russia now allows for the kind of freedom of expression that allows half-naked women to posture themselves for the sake of advertising dollars. God Bless Western values. And sure, Putin may have that rugged manliness about him that makes him look like Daniel Craig when taken from a very specific angle. But is that any good reason to trivialize politics down to a level of Hot or Not?

This may be an indication of how media and politics simply don't mix well. Instead of getting a handle on Putin's foreign policy or economic record, the media seems happy to feed us with the image of Putin flyfishing sans shirt. And to be perfectly honest, most of us are more interested in seeing that picture than reading a bunch of dry policy papers. But a presidential debate shouldn't end with a swimsuit competition.

So a lot of Russian women want to get naked for Putin. That's great. A real ego booster to the world to show that he's still got it. But what's his position on Afghanistan? What does he think is Russia's role in protecting the environment? How will the European Union affect decisions for the Russian people as they move ahead with their country's agenda? What does he think of China?

Maybe it's time to strip down to their issues and bare their strategies for dealing with them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Today In News

Today was so full of soft news bits that warranted one-liners, I decided to put them all together in no particular order. Here goes:

1- Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, is apparently giving up drinking because he was partying too hard during the filming of the final Potter film. This shows that it's not easy to be a child actor, just as it's not easy to be a boy wizard whose fictional world rests in his wand hand.

2- Selma Hayek's billionnaire magnate husband has proven to be the father of supermodel Linda Evangelista's 4 year old child. He has also proven to be the father of wife Selma Hayek's 4 year old child. It doesn't take a mathematician to prove that this is going to be endless tabloid fodder as the child support case goes to court. Selma Hayek was recently quoted in an interview stating that she is a good housewife who makes home-cooked meals for her spoiled husband. If I was that spoiled husband, I'd be on the lookout for poisoned empanadas.

3- Jesse James apparently forgives himself for having had multiple affairs on Sandra Bullock. Good for you, douchebag, we're all happy to hear that you can live with yourself happily. We all hope you have a wonderful life together, you and you.

4- A man protesting a group of pro-helmet cyclists cycled into their protest, flipped over his handlebars and died. Ironically, the use of a helmet would have probably saved his life. This man has inadvertently become the poster boy for the pro-helmet cause through his anti-helmet actions. Bravo. Darwin Award for you.

5- Will and Kate managed to fulfill a dying man's wish as they visited with him personally during their stint in Ottawa. The man observed that the monarchy needed people like Will and Kate because they were so kind to people who were not as well off as they were. Which, in the case of Will and Kate, since they are royalty, means that being nice to people who are not as well off as they are basically means 90% of the planet.

6- There's a rising trend of divorce ceremonies in Japan, particulary after the disaster quake. It appears that this is a market that hasn't been tapped into and so a particularly innovative Japanese man decided to create a divorce ceremony for couples who want an amicable split. The ceremony is completed by breaking the weddings bands with a hammer. It appears to be both cathartic and profitable. Leave it to the Japanese to make a ceremony out of everything, even the end of a relationship. It's hoped that tea will follow.

Nude Rights

It appears that an Ontario Court will review Canada's nudity laws after a complaint that the law is unconstitutional. A nude drive-thru customer in Bracebridge, ON, is arguing that the nudity laws are too broad, unconstitutional and a violation of his freedom of expression. He also claims that the act of being nude in public isn't harmful to others. Tell that to the drive-thru employee who cried as she testified that she had seen him naked.

While it may be true that the laws are constitutional and that theoretically, appearing nude is a harmless act and that the laws themselves are a reflection of our prudish society, there are many other good reasons to argue FOR the laws.

First off, nobody wants to see that. You may think that your body is a beautiful and natural thing and that we should all wander around in all of God's images and glory, but the truth is, most of us don't live in a world populated by Victoria Secret's models. Many of us are less than physically perfect and we don't necessarily need everyone to see every little freckle, bulge or crease.

Second of all, nobody wants to see that. Even if you are fantastically beautiful, that doesn't mean that everyone wants to enjoy in your splendor with you.

Third of all, how can you say it's harmless? What about trauma, mental harm, the strong urge to wash your eyes out with soap? Reducing children to tears, scaring the neighbours, the horror of seeing your parents the way that God intended them to be, watching people do menial chores and yard work butt naked? How is that harmless?

Fourth of all, being naked is about private access. It's part of how we define intimacy. Knowing that you're the only one who gets to see your partner naked is part of what creates the intimate bond between the two of you and also allows you to take pleasure in the fact that you can see what others can only imagine. Getting naked for your partner is also the universal sign that they want to sleep with you. If everyone on the street does it, well, it's just confusing.

Fifth of all, being naked is a private pleasure. It's our way of affirming that we are the master of our domain, short of peeing on the carpet. It means that we can feel at home, comfortable, free to do what we want, with the drapes closed and the pants off. If you're allowed to be naked everywhere, then it takes the fun out of being naked when you're home alone. There's also the feeling that when we're naked at home alone, we're getting away with something. Don't take that away from us!

And last but not least, covering up is another way to distinguish between us and the animals. It shows that we're civilized, decent and modest. There are some who say that human beings are animals and that in reality, we're just dressed up monkeys. If we don't dress up, well, then we're just monkeys. And that's not something I think we should strive for.