Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Friday, May 13, 2022

Corporate defence mode

Sunday May 8, 2022


Small stories open up into bigger stories. The CBC’s Go Public” series investigated a small incident where an Uber driver called one of his passengers a nigger. 

            When the passenger’s girlfriend defended him, the driver ordered her to shut up. 

            All captured on video. 

            It should have been an open-and-shut case. The girlfriend sent the video to Uber. 

            But Uber didn’t apologize. It shifted into corporate defence mode. You’ll see it often.

            Uber refused to tell the woman making the complaint what action it had taken, if any. It didn’t speak to either the woman or her black companion. It drew attention to its zero-tolerance policy for racism and discrimination posted on its website. It stated that its “customer support agents” get special training for handling cases like this. 

            Then it charged the woman’s credit card an extra $282 for allegedly damaging the driver’s side mirror. 

            It acted, in other words, according to the primary rules of corporate ethics. Shift the blame. Admit nothing. Cover your ass.

            In my experience, few corporate entities ever admit they did anything wrong. They’ll cite reams of statistics. They’ll quote lofty mission statements. They’ll run their lengthy history as a good corporate citizen up the flagpole. 

            Watch the Liberals and the Conservatives blame each other for whatever went wrong.

            And don’t expect the fossil fuel industry to admit its complicity in global warming. 


Defend the institution

            That judgement applies even to churches, which should know better. 

            As a boy, I used to wonder why preaching classes were called “apologetics” at the theological college where my father was principal.

            I looked the word up: “The intellectual defense of the truth of the Christian religion,” said one definition. And another, “To engage the questions, doubts, and skepticism of unbelievers and believers in the late modern culture.”

            The implied purpose of preaching, in other words, was not to encourage Christians to live more Christ-like lives, but to defend the institution against perceived attacks.

            In one sense, the apology issued in Prince Albert this last week by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, broke no new grounds. It didn’t add anything to our knowledge of injustices at the residential schools operated for the government of Canada by the churches. 

            But it did break new ground in another sense. He didn’t defend the Anglican Church. He didn’t blame injustice on a few misguided members.

            Williams said, in part, “I am here today … to apologise for the damage caused to your communities… and to recognise the grievous sins of the Church of England … against the First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis people of Canada.

            He called it “structural sin, not just individual sin, which has been terrible enough. Structural in society and, worse still, in the Church. Sins of racism and discrimination…

            “Instead of standing with you, we abandoned you. In the midst of great poverty, the Church shrugged its shoulders and contributed to further hardship.

            “Even if we were powerless [to change the residential school system] we should have been willing to suffer alongside you.”


“Structural sin”

            I like his term “structural sin.” It’s sin built into the systems by which we run other systems. A system can’t be undone by the words of mission statements or pious policies, because it was never set out in words. It grew out of the actions of thousands of ordinary people living what they didn’t realize were prejudices. 

            British common law is an example of a system. No one controls it. No one governs it. No one set it up. It just exists. 

            International trade is another system. No one planned it. No one governs it. It grew out of millions of individual transactions. 

            Sexism in the military, the RCMP, perhaps also in fire halls, is systemic. It has grown over decades of being taken for granted. It can’t be stopped by an edict from above.

            Systems gather momentum like a rock rolling down a mountainside. Until they crash into something. Like irrefutable evidence of climate change. Or movements like Black Lives Matter. 

            Or, in Uber’s case, into a national TV network.

            Not until the CBC’s Go Public team got involved did Uber even admit that it had disciplined its erring driver. But it still refused to say what it had done, or when, or for how long. 

            It’s a small thing. A derogatory comment. An arbitrary charge. Yet it reveals a pattern of response that’s too often endemic. 


Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Your turn


I’m turning most of this week’s correspondence over to Ted Spencer, who calls himself “a 72-year-old geezer who’s [spent his life] toiling in an electronic garden… "

            Here are Ted’s comments (with a few additions from me, based on subsequent correspondence): 

            “I’ve no intention of either condemning or endorsing your various concerns about the ‘radiation bath’; it is, however, necessary to ensure that the concerns presented are consistent with what knowledge is available.

            “The inclusion of X-rays and ultraviolet radiation in the discussion is spurious. Those are understood to be ionizing radiation, and they’re vastly different, in their type and effects, from non-ionizing radiation as found in radio waves, phone and bus charging systems and, indeed the radiation from a fire, or a house heater. [Nevertheless, it is] true that subjecting yourself to infrared radiation from a heat source for 100 years will likely kill you.

            [JT: The break between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation comes around the frequencies of visible light. Ultraviolet and higher ionize; infrared and lower don’t.}

            “Electric fields are characterized by their frequency and intensity. Perhaps the largest electric field we’ll ever encounter is that found just before a lightning strike, and they are undeniably hazardous if you happen to be the lightning rod of the hour. Those of us living in thundery places are subjected to these enormous fields from time to time, and, except for the unfortunate few who become lightning rods, long-term effects have not been noted. These fields’ frequency is more or less 0 Hertz (cycles per second); does that matter? When lightning strikes, the field hops from 0 Hz to a thick soup of very wide spectrum radio signals of very considerable proportions.

            “The microwave oven does generate prodigious electric fields; sticking your head in one will toast your corneas long before it raises the internal temperature of your head by anything near 1°C. Don’t do it. That field, by the way, is at 2.45 GHz (gigacycles per second). 

            “The bath of WiFi/cellular radiation, which is conveniently in the vicinity of the microwave oven, frequency-wise, is a hazard of partly-known proportions. Folks have been encouraged to use a headset when talking on a cell phone to move the phone’s transmitter some distance from one’s head. Does that help mitigate a problem no one knows for sure really exists? It’s not known, but why not do it?

            “There’s no such thing (as general rule) as an electric field without an associated magnetic field. We’ve all been bathed in a more or less constant magnetic field [the earth’s], and lots of critters (including people) find that field useful for navigation. It’s not a huge field, but it certainly is constant over human lifespans.

            “The bus/phone/pacemaker chargers of concern tend to be low frequency devices (20,000 Hz to 2,000,000 Hz) and their designers have a vested interest in making sure that the vast majority of the energy they send out ends up being absorbed by the intended target. Some leaks out. How much? Pacemaker designers -- along with anyone else who tries to sell electronic goodies -- have been compelled to demonstrate that their widgets are unaffected by large electromagnetic fields the frequencies likely to be encountered. Such low frequency and very powerful signals have bathed the world for a century now, as AM radio transmitters. Do we know, after that century of experience, whether there have been effects, or what they are?

            “We are wise to consider the unforeseen effects of much of what we do as a technical society. We are even wiser if we let these concerns be guided by such knowledge as we have amassed, and actively eschew concerns based on unfounded popular opinion. The one leads to technical marvels that few of us fail to appreciate. The other leads to endemic bone-headedness that allows the Trumps and the Putins (and their admirers) to flourish.”


“I think you are missing something here,” Frank Martens wrote.  Citing the increased life expectancy of the last 50 years or so, Frank continued, “I just turned 85 a week ago… You and I have both lived longer than average lives despite all of the problems with emissions of all sorts.”


Mirza Yawar Baig wrote, “Any study about human life must be done over a period of time, long enough to measure it's affect over a lifespan spread over a cross section of the population that's big and diverse enough to be statistically valid. Was this done in the ‘countless’ studies that the proponents of wireless technology want us to trust? 

            “More important, in my view, is that for a study to be credible, it should be designed to determine the HARMFULNESS of something, which proves that the thing is NOT HARMFUL. My guess is that these studies, like almost all studies funded by manufacturers, are designed to show how wireless is NOT harmful. This is the opposite of what should be done in any investigative scientific study i.e., design it to show that it IS harmful but the study can't find any evidence to support its premise. In short it is the FAILURE of the study that makes it credible.”


Jean Skillman supported Yawar Baig’s concerns about testing: “Low frequency electromagnetic radiation is increasingly present in our world. Thanks for drawing attention to the issues with it.  An article from April 2022 by Dr Joel Moskowitz from the School of Public Health, University of California, summarizes current research, noting that much research is industry driven.”

            The rest of Jean’s letter dealt with the risks of adopting even more electromagnetic technology, as a substitute for carbon-based technology, in our efforts to avert climate change. 


Tom Watson has also worried about wireless transmission: “When I sit in my living room with my iPad and send a document to my printer in another room, 40 feet away, I often wonder if I should duck to keep out of the way of it. And you raise an interesting point about wireless charging pavement affecting a driver's pacemaker. I have a Kuraidori induction cooktop. When Janice was alive, she was supposed to keep an arms-length away from the Kuraidori lest it interfere with her pacemaker.”


Vera Gottlieb recalled “a study released by the famous ETH University in Zurich, Switzerland. Studies had been made on how microwaved food affected those eating food prepared with microwave ovens. One group received only microwaved food -- the other received food cooked the ‘old fashioned’ way. Can’t remember how long this experiment lasted. However, it was discovered that those eating microwaved food - something in their blood had changed (but I can’t remember what).”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



            The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns


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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: corporations, Uber, apologetics



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