I’m not a morning person. But I’ve embraced rising early

By Barry Rueger
Published: Globe and Mail 
December 30, 2022
935 words

This morning, I awoke at 6 a.m. The sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean was barely starting to show itself. It was dark and cold, and I stumbled downstairs to make coffee. And to wonder why, suddenly, I was waking up so darned early, day after day, week after week.

All my life I’ve been a night person, a late sleeper, someone who honestly despises mornings. Over years of working in events, in restaurants, or in radio, I have always been able to arrange my life to avoid rising early. This has been less of a choice than my natural state of being. My body and mind just weren’t designed to switch on before noon.

Now, in Nova Scotia, everything has changed. By 6:30 a.m. most days, my wife Susan and I are both awake, drinking coffee and eating toast in bed, our cat Beatrice between us. We’ll already be working on our laptops, and sharing ideas and plans for the day.

We’re both left asking the same question: What happened? The only change in our lives has been leaving France for a house at the edge of the ocean in Western Head, N.S.

Ours is the last home on the road to the Western Head Lighthouse. The house was built in the late 1800s, then added to several times, and has found the balance between modern living and 19th-century charm. We have many windows, and can see the breakers rolling in from three sides of the house. We hear the wind and the pelting rain, and we’re now awaiting with excitement the first real hurricane-force winds. We can’t help but feel a primal attachment to the weather and a respect for the changes that happen from one hour to the next. You can’t ignore the outdoors in such a place.

Nova Scotia weather is immediate and intense, and despite the cloud, rain and wind, it’s somehow joyful. We can wake up to intense blue skies on one day, or great overwhelming columns of white clouds on the next. We’ve become remarkably conscious of the patterns of light and dark. In a few hours we can go from bright sunshine to pitch-black skies punctuated with thousands of bright shiny stars.

But these mornings! Why so early? It’s not just the weather, the Atlantic, or the dramatic difference between the dark of night and the light of day. It’s not about exchanging urban life for rural. I’ve spent years living in the country, and never before have my nocturnal habits been disturbed.

Part of it is about finding the time to just stop, look, listen and enjoy what each day has to offer us. People here don’t rush, but they are not slow either. Things get done, and get done in about the time you would expect.

Yet every person that we know here will stop what they’re doing, look you in the eye and just settle into a conversation. They’ll ask where you’re from, whether you’re “just visiting” (and that’s the big question in a place where families can trace their history back for centuries) and where, exactly, your house is. The first time that they say, “Oh yeah, I know that house,” it surprises you. The third or fourth time, you accept that this is just how things are.

Since moving here, I’ve learned that if deciding on a plumber or a roofer takes me a month, or six months, that’s okay. I feel like I can slow down, take one step at a time and consider every decision for as long as it takes.

That space, time and freedom means that I can rise early. I can allow myself to just sit and enjoy the sunrise, to think and plan my day, and perhaps allow myself a third cup of coffee just because I have the time.

These early mornings are becoming a ritual. For the first time, I find I have the space to order my thoughts, file some away for later and deal with some right now. And when my brain feels like it’s close to capacity, it gives me permission to stop, look out my windows at the sea, the sky and the sun, and let the true world in front of me clear my head.

Which is wonderful. But why am I waking up so early? I don’t have a fixed schedule. I’m not heading down to the boats. I don’t have a desk job to be at by 9 a.m.

Ultimately it feels as if I’m doing this because it’s what you do if you live here in Western Head, on the coast of the Atlantic, in Nova Scotia. Just as watching the sunrise is now a normal part of each day, aligning my body rhythms with the cycles of the sun and sky is simply the best and healthiest thing to do.

After decades of fighting the morning, I’ve found that it’s something that unexpectedly and definitely works for me. After fitting my life into schedules that perhaps made waking difficult or impossible, I find that I can trust my body and my soul to choose when to rise – and when to sleep.

Now, when I look at the people around me in Western Head, and in Nova Scotia, I understand that we all share the same attachment to the sky, to the sea and to the weather. We’ve learned that our best happiness comes from recognizing the power of our natural world, and from integrating our lives into those rhythms – allowing us to be scheduled by the natural world around us, not by our alarm clocks.

In praise of librarians, defenders of the written word

Published: Globe and Mail
February 19, 2022
897 words

A note to librarians and public libraries:  Please feel free to republish this column as needed.  If you do so please let me know, or send me a copy, and make sure to credit myself, the Globe and Mail, and my website https://appalbarry.com.

In 1968, when I was 12 years old, my world was almost entirely defined by the science fiction that I read at the Kelowna, B.C., public library. I could name all of the spaceships in Robert Heinlein books, was intimately familiar with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and had read and reread I, Robot and The Martian Chronicles.

Inside the small one-story red-brick building on Ellis Street was a magic world that protected and comforted me. On those shelves I first discovered the seeds that germinated into almost every idea and belief that I have today.

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember the names or faces of any of these librarians. But I remember the smell of the library, and the dust motes in the sunshine that streamed in from the big windows above the bookshelves. As I write I can feel myself pushing through the big double doors, turning left and walking into the big reading room for adults. I remember the counter where the librarians, with their ink pads and date stamps, waited to check out my books.

My family had moved to Kelowna from Calgary a few years earlier. I was the new kid. I wore glasses. I was picked on and bullied and was chosen last for every team. So I did what so many children like me do: I lived at the library, and inside the books that I brought home from its shelves.

I was a voracious reader. I’d burned through everything in the children’s section and was searching for something new. That’s when I asked one of those un-named librarians for help, and she led me out of the children’s room, and showed me the shelf of Robert Heinlein’s books for adult readers. She quietly explained to me that my library card was equally valid in either the children’s or adult section and that it would allow me to borrow any book in any part of the library. That librarian changed my life.

Twelve-year-old me couldn’t have expressed it in words, but I was overwhelmed by the honour, and the responsibility, of being told that, despite my age, I was allowed to read anything and everything in that library. For the first time in my life, I was being treated like an adult. I knew this was something special.

I remember beginning with Mr. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury and then moving on to other authors with a spaceship sticker on the spine of the book. As I scoured the shelves, I discovered that science fiction was not just about rocket ships and aliens, it was about societies and cultures.

Philip José Farmer took me along on The Fabulous Riverboat, and that twisted version of Tom Sawyer prompted me to discover the original Samuel Clemens. Ursula K. Le Guin upturned my understanding of politics and opened my eyes to characters that were neither male nor female, and surely prepared me for the coming decades of gay liberation, and now trans acceptance.

When I discovered Harlan Ellison’s groundbreaking Dangerous Visions and the sometimes drug-addled authors in that series, I realized that the world was much stranger and more fascinating than what I read in Kelowna’s The Daily Courier. And I learned that some books – such as Gore Vidal’s 1968 Myra Breckinridge – were best kept under cover for fear of outraging my father.

I stepped into the adult side of the library at a time when a seemingly endless stream of books not only explored “deviant” culture but also celebrated it as well. Reading about these dangerous and damaged people showed me that I wasn’t alone. That wasn’t something that I could learn from my family or friends. I had to learn it from books.

Being young means being unfocussed. At the same time I was devouring countercultural science fiction I was also throwing myself into non-fiction, scouring the Dewey Decimal system from the 100s – Witchcraft and Bulfinch’s Mythology – all the way down to the 900s and the Holocaust.

At 12, I already knew the horrors of Nazi Germany, and about the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Auschwitz. It never occurred to me that I might be too young to learn this part of our history.

Unfortunately, this path to enlightenment has been obstructed in McMinn County, Tenn., where the local school board recently removed Art Spiegelman’s landmark graphic memoir, Maus, from its curriculum.

McMinn County is not an isolated case. Across Canada and the United States, there are groups who demand that one book or another be removed from public view, from school curriculums, or from libraries. In the U.S. there have even been threats of criminal charges against public librarians.

Freedom to Read Week, which begins Feb. 20, is the time when our local librarians stand up for the books and authors that some people would ban. It’s also the time when some of us stand up to defend our librarians.

Every book in a library is there because a librarian believes it is worth reading. Unlike the self-appointed censors in Tennessee, my librarians in Kelowna were willing go the extra length to open doors and share the joy of learning with young people. Unlike the school board members in McMinn County, my librarians understood that reading widely and with abandon makes children stronger, and wiser, and sometimes kinder.

Holding onto history

Published: Globe and Mail  (PDF)
December 18, 2021
1258 words

Even though I knew my grandmother for more than 50 years, I had never heard this story of how my family moved from Hagersville, Ont., to the wilds of Western Canada. Some time around 1912, my great-grandfather, Wellington Millard, was afflicted by serious asthma. Because he could no longer live near the smoky Hamilton steel mills, the family decided to leave Ontario for the clean air of Dorintosh, Sask.

While my great-grandparents and six of their children headed west, my grandmother Hazel stayed behind with her mother’s mother, Margaret Dale. Margaret believed the far-fetched stories about blood-thirsty wolves, harsh winters, and the general lawlessness of the West and wanted to be sure that at least one family heir would survive if her fears proved true.

The only reason that I know this story is because my cousin, Crystal Oliver, made a point of recording it in the years before Grandma died.

My mother, Evelyn Rueger, was Hazel’s daughter. In September, aged 94, Mom died of COVID-19. Several weeks later, I drove from Vancouver to Kelowna to meet with my sister Kathy to go through Mom’s house and see what was worth keeping. I knew that most of what was in the house was very old, and of little interest, but it was a job that we had to do.

Like my grandmother, my mom kept everything. As well as records, CDs and VHS tapes, there were decades of Christmas decorations and small appliances from the seventies. We found an electric spin-dryer that predated the modern washing machine that Mom bought with her first pension cheque. Adult clothes, teenagers’ clothes, kids’ and babies’ clothes. And, in an unlocked safe in her bedroom, an urn with my father’s ashes, together with the ashes of three of her previous cats.

Kathy and I didn’t try to make sense of all of this junk. Instead we spent hours looking at family photos. In corners throughout the house we found dozens of photo albums, each packed with pictures of family, both close and distant, each page stirring memories of things that happened decades ago. We looked at pictures of relatives, all looking young and hopeful with their lives ahead of them, many of them now dead. And we looked at similar pictures of ourselves, as children, and teens, and as young adults.

What struck me though was the almost complete absence of anything to do with my father, Ralph. It was not a good relationship, and apparently Mom had quietly purged anything to do with him. Or perhaps there were just never very many pictures of him. All that I know is that at some point he no longer played a large part in my mother’s history, which means that my sister and I can only rely on our own memories to fill that gap.

It was late on Monday when my sister Kathy finally left – saying to me for the first time in her life, “I love you.” Ours is a family that doesn’t say such things for fear of ridicule. That, sadly, is the legacy of my father.

It was only after Kathy left that I found the last box of old documents – letters that I wrote home 40 years ago, more old pictures, wills from several relatives and finally a big, fat Cerlox bound book about my grandmother. Where a Rose Once Bloomed is the family history that I never knew existed.

I did not know that my cousin Crystal was a writer, but in 104 pages she told the entire life story of my grandmother Hazel. In the two years before my grandmother died, Crystal somehow uncovered dozens of anecdotes and stories that I had never heard, and dozens of photos of my grandmother, her parents and their parents as well. I can’t begin to describe what an incredible labour of love this must have been.

Her work and her storytelling ability brought my grandmother back to life. This book made me feel, for the first time, a real connection to her side of our family, and an understanding of the importance of knowing its history. Because I was able to understand my grandmother as a living, breathing person, I was able to understand where I came from, and why I am the person I am today.

And at that moment I came to the realization that my own family has only a part of that knowledge. There are no letters or documents. We have only scattered memory of old stories and family history. We have pictures, but most often no context within which to place them. Even when we recognize the people in old photos, we have no way of knowing the places and times, or why the pictures were taken.

Thanks to Crystal we now have a good history of my mother’s side of the family, but we have literally nothing to tell us our father’s story. We know next to nothing of his childhood and youth, and even less about his first wife. I certainly can’t tell you what motivated him, or what made him so damaged. I can’t tell you why Madge, the nearly mythical first wife, killed herself by walking in front of a train. I am sure that there once were paper records that might have led us to answers, but they all seem to be gone.

And now that my mother is dead, I can see no way to ever collect that history. This makes me very sad.

Surrounding ourselves in those memories was the best thing that we could have done to honour my mother. Each of those tiny images on paper, some colour, some black and white, and some faded almost to nothing, captures a specific moment in time and preserves it in way that is almost lost by our streaming culture. TikTok will never replace Polaroid and Kodak for permanence, and a Facebook post can’t possibly resonate the way a 5-by-7 inch photograph does. Scrolling on the internet will never be as evocative as the tactile experience of turning pages in a big black photo album and pointing to pictures and sharing the stories behind them.

If there is one lesson to be learned from my experience, it is this: Take the time and effort to talk to family members and collect their stories. Interview your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and write down your own histories. Even if you think you will never want it, this is important. If not for you, then for your children, or your grandchildren.

And collect all of those old photos, and paste them into albums, and write beside each one who is in it, what was happening and when. It will take time, and effort, and will seem old fashioned, but you’re doing this for family members who will find it in 50 years – or a hundred. You cannot imagine how much they will treasure your work, and how much it will enlighten them.
Instead of abandoning your family history to Facebook or Instagram, print it out and save it in a drawer or a shoebox. Computer hard drives crash, and even the biggest social-media companies can disappear. A cupboard full of books and albums in your home can last forever.

Crystal is urging me to take up the challenge and begin building my own family’s history. I don’t know if it’s even possible, but she is making me believe that I may be able to do it.

I’m hoping it’s not too late. I surely understand why it’s so important.

 

How long can we support the weight of COVID-19?

Published: The Globe and Mail (PDF)
September 25, 2020
818 words

In August, I received a frantic text message from my sister. She has been our  mother’s primary caregiver for many years, but Mom is 92, settling into dementia, and now had gout. The time had come to finally help her to move out of the family home and into care.
Even though I hardly ever make the drive from Vancouver, where I live, to my home town Kelowna, obviously there was no choice. I cancelled a day’s work and was set to go.
But I didn’t. I still don’t feel entirely safe visiting my mother. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have COVID-19, but that isn’t 100 per cent certain. I’m even less sure that my brother and sister aren’t carriers.

(Read the full column)

Oh, so you think you know us olds?

Published: The Line (PDF)
August 11, 2020
1116 words

A few months ago my wife Susan and I travelled to Vancouver Island to meet a breeder of Great Dane puppies. After decades of rescuing dogs and cats, we had decided that it was time to finally splurge and adopt the dog of our dreams.

We met the breeder, and his Danes, and his puppies, and spoke at length about our experience with dogs, our training as dog handlers, and about the life that we expected to offer our new pet. Even though his prices were higher than some breeders, we were ready to pay it. These were lovely dogs.
We returned home and waited for the email telling us when our puppy was born. And waited. And waited.

After the breeder ignored us for more than a month, we finally put the pieces together: he had decided that we were too old to adopt a dog. Our income, experience, and knowledge meant nothing because we had grey hair – especially since he had said his “best” puppies were all reserved for cool young couples living in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown neighbourhood.

In an age when almost everyone accepts that you can’t refuse people service on the basis of race, religion, culture, or disability; when right-wing pundits cry in their beer because they’re expected to be respectful of people who are different from them; when #MeToo, and #BLM, and Trans rights are part of the public discourse, there’s still one group that you can mock, insult, and discriminate against: old people.

On one day it’s oh-so-cool tech gurus complaining how they need to dumb-down products because old people can’t understand computers and smart phones. That might include the people who literally invented the Internet and personal computing. They’re now in their sixties and seventies.

On another it’s being ignored at a local restaurant because the servers believe that Old People don’t tip. (We do. Usually 20%. Unless you ignore us.) Incidentally, the American AARP claims old people tip more.

The most absurd are thirty-year-olds who apologize all over themselves for dropping a “fuck” into conversation as if we’re poor innocents that will be shocked into a heart attack if we hear a “curse-word.” That wasn’t true when I was 20, and it’s sure not true now. I grew up with George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say On Television” so you’re not about to shock me.

Every few years a movie or TV series will appear that tells of an older (invariably widowed) couple who fall in love. It will be a comedy because obviously old people falling in love is just ridiculous. Their children will be very concerned because, well, their parents are OLD people. And the writers won’t dwell on sex because 70 year old people don’t do that, and besides, it would be gross!

Still, I’ll take that bad romance over the inevitable inspirational stories about people 60, 70, or 90-years-old who run a marathon, hike the West Coast trail, or climb Mount Everest. Or get a law degree, or get elected to office, or do important scientific research. Or get married.

“Look Martha! That old person is doing stuff that young people usually do!” Or “Isn’t that sweet, that old guy just kissed that old woman.” Or “Wow, she’s 60, and just started a business!”

Well, big whoop-di-do.

I’ll actually place the blame for these prejudices at the feet of the media, and especially advertising. Whether it’s the sheer inanity of Norwich Union’s 1990 “It’s Patrick He Took Out Life Insurance!” ad series, or the infomercials for Acorn stair lifts and walk-in bath tubs, the truth is that advertisers of all stripes portray older people as infirm, often confused, and not very bright — yet loaded with cash to spend on junk that claims to improve their lifestyle.
Contrast that with the image of older people presented by retirement communities and the government: happy healthy Senior Citizens, with (moderately) active lives, great big smiles, and some kind of unspecified comfortable income that lets them relax, dress well, and take cruises to Alaska. Ah yes, those fabled days of happy retirement!

That picture ignores the hard reality that not every old person is enjoying that happy, healthy lifestyle. The government’s own figures show that about 5% of the senior community lives in poverty, and while those statistics do suggest that the elderly are wealthier than many working-age people and their children, the truth is that many of us continue to work just to make ends meet.
Unlike younger people — who still enjoy health, energy and time to get ahead — many older people are forced into retirement with no real hope of escaping poverty.

Then there’s the matter of healthcare. Being an old patient means that your busy life is not a priority. Everyone in health care assumes that you can be scheduled to whatever time is convenient for the doctors or nurses. Surely you’re not holding down a job anymore? More frightening is the growing sense that there are some medical procedures that you’re just not offered because of age. Then there are the frank statements by doctors who warn that, in the face of a shortage of ICU and ventilators, elderly people will not get access to life-saving interventions.

The picture of the cute, befuddled, but loveable old senior, working the garden of the (fully paid for) family home with no worries beyond the next bingo session at the community hall is nonsense. We have responsibilities to our families; we struggle to pay our bills, just like everybody else.

But it’s this nonsense that provides cover for governments that don’t want to provide pensions that meet the poverty line.

I’ll acknowledge that some old people are doddering old fools. The secret is that they’ve always been doddering fools. I’ve known people that were “old” at age 25, with a boring job, a boring house in the suburbs, and a boring minivan.
Stop and talk to the old people that you do know. Don’t ask about grandchildren or Facebook: ask about how little they get from their pension, or how much of that money goes to medicine and health care. Find out where they’re cutting corners to cover the rent increases every year.

Armed with that information, ask yourself if the pensions and services we’re offering are enough for older people that haven’t had the luck to build up healthy RRSPs or real estate holdings. This matters because sooner or later it’s going to be you that needs them. In the meantime wise up to the truth that the 70 year old you saw in the park could easily be a friend, a business partner, or even a lover — if you could get past your prejudices.

 

It’s Too Late For Us To Fight Climate Change. Instead, Here’s How We’ll Spend Our Lives.

Published: Huffington Post
February 16, 2020
700 words

Barry Rueger looking out over the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island in Ucluelet, British Columbia. 

(Note to commenters: This column has generated a significant amount of email and feedback. All comments are moderated.  Climate science deniers will simply be deleted and blocked.  Anyone rep[lying with “OK Boomer” will be asked for a 1000 words explaining how they came to that assessment.)

Last year was when the endless bush fires in Australia convinced me and my wife, Susan, that climate change was unstoppable. It’s also when we realized that we likely will avoid seeing the worst of the climate emergency.

At 64 and 74 years of age, my wife and I believe there’s a good chance that we’ll be gone before coastal cities are flooded, the ice caps have melted, and the planet descends into a “Mad Max” dystopia. We would like to think that this isn’t what the future has in store, but the intransigence of almost all governments to actually slow carbon emissions leaves little doubt that things are unlikely to turn around.

One of the things that age gives you is a sense of history, a feeling that you’ve seen patterns repeat and that you can see where things are heading in the near future. Over and over again, we’ve seen corporations and governments ignore the people they should protect in order to line their own pockets. What has changed now is that they’re sacrificing an entire planet instead of a town or a country. I would like to believe that the younger people marching with Greta Thunberg could change that, but honestly I can’t see it happening.

Read more.

Do we need CanCon for print media?

Published: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (En français aussi)
February 4, 2020
1211 words

The Canadian content regulations established by the CRTC in 1971 played a major part in building our homegrown music industry. What would happen if we applied those principles to Canada’s news media sector?

The Top Thirty playlist for Vancouver's CKLG radio station in June 1973.In my hometown of Kelowna, B.C., in 1970, you bought your records at the Music Box store on Ellis Street. Each week you’d travel downtown to choose from the new 45s and albums that you’d heard on the local radio station. And while you were there you’d pick up the latest list of the top 30 records being played on Vancouver’s powerhouse station CKLG.

Looking at those old charts today, you’d be struck by one thing: aside from an occasional appearance by Anne Murray or the Guess Who, you would almost never see a Canadian artist in the Top 30. The charts were dominated by American and English musicians. The assumption at CKLG, and among its listeners, was that popular music came from those places, not from Canada.

Because there was little airplay for our musicians, there was also very little recording industry infrastructure in Canada. Becoming successful in music back then meant going to the U.S. to record, work and live. Today, by contrast, it’s hard to keep track of all of the Canadian artists who enjoy successful careers here and abroad. Everyone from Drake on down is able to record here and build a global profile without leaving the country. That wouldn’t have happened without Canadian content regulations.

Read the full article.

My mother gave her children the magic of Christmas. I’m proud she had the courage

Published: Guardian (Australia)
December 24, 2019
815 words

Christmas Tree
Photograph: Holly Anissa Photography/Getty Images

Excerpt from the article:

The most amazing thing about our Christmas was that it even happened, and that it was a wonderful day year after year. My mother claimed that Christmas was “for the kids, not the adults” but the truth was that this was the one day of the year that she protected from my father’s interference. It is only years later that I realise just how hard that must have been.

My parents were married in 1952. They were both just 24 years of age, and my father had been widowed only six months earlier. His first wife had killed herself by walking in front of a train, leaving behind her husband and her infant child, my half-brother.

I do not know whether that trauma was the cause of my father’s psychosis, or whether her suicide was the result of something that had been with him throughout his life, but I do know that he was a desperately unhappy man. I grew up never knowing affection or approval, and my mother’s life was even bleaker.

Read the full article.

DNV Council – For The Birds?

Pigeon

This week the municipal council of the District of North Vancouver voted to prohibit the keeping of pigeons in the District.  Or, more specifically, they voted to prohibit the keeping of pigeons by one resident.

Even that wouldn’t have particularly bothered me, except that the homeowner in question, Kulwant Dulay, happens to live next to the sole person complaining to the District about his pigeons – District council member Betty Forbes.

CBC reports that Dulay says he’s lived in the District of North Vancouver for 25 years and, for most of them, he’s kept homing pigeons on his property in a coop in the backyard, without ruffling any feathers.  Only when he moved in next to Forbes three years ago did this become a problem.

The biggest concern with this story has to be the way that the District and Forbes very explicitly didn’t name her as the complainant, or discuss why a new bylaw was needed to deal with her complaint.  It seems that only when CBC filed an FOI request did the truth emerge. There’s now a suggestion that Forbes was in clear conflict of interest.

Perhaps ironically, the previous council actually brought in rules that allow people to keep chickens in their back yards.

 

Postscript: Justin McElroy has a great Twitter thread recounting this saga. Including this gem in the comments:

Betty Forbes Tweet

The Chinese media prepared me for the Canadian election

Published: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (En français aussi)
October 15, 2019
1277 words

The Chinese media prepared me for the Canadian election

Donald Trump’s trade war with China was in full swing when we left for China. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had been arrested at a Canadian airport, and two Canadians had been detained in China. By the time we left it was July and the Canadian government was warning us to “Exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

The trip was wonderful, and we came away with a much greater understanding of China and the Chinese people, and with an appreciation for how little we knew about the history, culture and government of the country.

The most striking thing about living in what is undeniably a police state was the iron grip that government has on the news media. Since the average person in China isn’t likely to use a VPN to access foreign media, most people see and read only what the Communist party wants them to see and read.

… When we returned home, I was truly looking forward to returning to my regular media diet of Twitter, Facebook and our local newspapers. Instead, I was shocked to realize that the Canadian news landscape was far too much like the Chinese one we had just left behind. The only difference was that the control was by corporate interests instead of the government.

Full article here.