Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Canadian Scandal

Before I begin this post, I should clearly define my heritage, as that seems quite important to many people right now. I’m the product of British Isle immigrants (who came over in the mid-late 1800s) and Dutch immigrants (1950s). I was born in Canada.

Yesterday, Joseph Boyden published My Name is Joseph Boyden in Maclean’s magazine. It’s 4 000 words of “here’s what I know about my family” and “I’m a good person”.

It’s not going over too well with anyone who isn’t from the upper white echelon.

Here in Canada, we like scandal. Our British heritage is made obvious in scandal: we disapprove from a chilly distance, disdain with silence. When we speak of people, we use the passive voice and unspecific pronouns like they and he/she, so as not to contaminate ourselves with proper nouns.

We can’t seem to decide: should we be blaming an individual or a group? Who, precisely, is responsible for this problem? Who should we focus on?

According to Ken Whyte, it is time to focus on an individual and the “bullshit” that has been inflicted on him:

(Will I comment on his use of capital letters? I suppose it could be accidental…. No, I think I won’t comment on it.)

According to Robert Jago, it is also time to think about the individual and a different variety of bullshit. (I suggest reading the whole thread and [most of] the comments):

(Mr. Jago also makes mistakes on Twitter, but they’re occasional and clearly typos.)

I think Canada might be getting too focused on the individuals. Individual attention is required when there is a person standing right in front of you, where the interaction is between you and them. When a whole country–including those who have never met said individual–focuses on one person, this becomes rather like a religion. The person becomes an entity, a god or a devil, to serve the purpose.

God/devil/scapegoat: they’re all useful.

The real scandal in my country, however, is that we are a humongous, varied group that isn’t working well together. We’re not working well because we’re focusing on individuals rather than groups. We’re looking for ancient DNA and contemporary affirmation to justify our views on millions of people.

Maclean’s magazine gave 4 000 words to one person. The article isn’t about making improvements to Canada, about how we can work things out so everyone gets what they need–and perhaps some of what they want. It’s about one person and how they justify their own identity.

I would have like to see something about how we could try to end scandal–something about how the taxes can be evenly distributed, how we can get everyone the basics of human needs and rights, how someone like me (who has everything they need) can share with those who need something.

In this age of internet, where just about everyone has access to blogs, Twitter, etc. I would like to see an individual’s issues on said individual’s personal social media sites and national issues in our national media. The use of scandal to sell magazines depresses me.

And, for pete’s sake, let’s try for a new, more interesting, better class of scandal.

P.S. Ken Whyte praises the piece as “outstanding”. It’s not. It’s not better than, worse than or different from any other rambling blog. It needs a red pen.

Edit: Pithy internet quotes to support my point.

 

Because the Internet Needs More Cat

Activity Being Avoided: going to bed
Music In My Head: listening to Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha
Tea Being Drunk: none. It’s cocoa. I’m supposed to be going to sleep soon.
Books Being Read: The Son of a Certain Woman–Wayne Johnston, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent–Liz Howard

This post is for a student–the sort of student who can order up blog posts as if they’re choosing from a menu–who wants to know about my cats. My gut instinct said no one else wants to read about my cats, but secondary reaction said it wouldn’t be the first time only one person has read a post.

I’m a cat person. I get along with cats for all the same reasons dog people don’t get along with them: they’re indifferent, arrogant, demanding, egocentric and immutable.

I will always be a cat person. There’s no sense to existence without something (*mph*) small and (*merph*) fuzzy walking on your chest and (god dammit) demanding attention.

Meet Esther. She just sneezed in my face. Life with cat mucus.

Esther, who is solar-powered.

Esther is a hedonist. She likes intense sunlight, being held, being fed, sitting between me and my laptop, and generally having everything go her way. When Esther doesn’t get what she likes, everyone hears about it. I think she’s got a little Siamese in her, somewhere; that yowl is preternatural. Her favourite place to sleep is on the small of my back. If I am not available as a heat source when she wants to sleep, she likes to be wrapped in a blanket so she can nap–not blanket-tucked-around-shoulders: wrapped. Her face needs to be covered, too. Clearly, demons don’t need to breathe.

Her brother is Leo. He has what my friend calls “stranger danger” fears (everyone is a stranger). He’s afraid of loud noises and things that change. Leo also has an oral fixation and needs to bathe me several times per day. We’ve come to an agreement that he can have at the rough parts of my skin (elbows, knuckles) any time he likes, but he may only have one swipe at the sensitive parts (inside of the wrist) and the ticklish parts (palms) are entirely off-limit. He also likes being fed, and will stand on his hind legs to thwack my bottom while I put the food on the plate.

Leo, who likes a selection of water bowls.

Leo and Esther arrived five and a half years ago, after the death of the last of what I now consider to be “the first batch” of cats in my adult life. These guys arrived, along with a sister (who died a year and a half ago), when their owners moved into a retirement home. The cats had other names that no one seemed to know for certain, and were theoretically all female.

They became Naomi, Esther and Leah.

Ten days later, when we finally got him out from under the chair, Leah became Leo. We figured it was okay to put a Latin name in with the Hebrew, given that the cats spoke neither language. (At the time, they only spoke Polish.) They haven’t objected to it yet.

That’s *my* pillow, meant for humans, not cats.

The cats control the house. They schedule a good part of my day, and take up a fair amount of time for creatures that are theoretically independent. For their sake, my saving account gets laundered straight through the pet food store and the vet. They view shedding as a full-time occupation, so I only sound obsessive when I say I vacuum thoroughly twice a week. My furniture is all ripped at the corners, and all the plants in the house have to be edible. Cardboard boxes and paper bags are earmarked as entertainment.

Despite what that confession might imply, these are not what millennials have termed “fur babies”. They are family members. They are kindred spirits. They are a reason for lifting one’s nose from the page and paying attention to the good things in life.

 

On Ostracism and Other Words

Activity Being Avoided: editing a story that’s not really working
Music In My Head: listening to a homemade playlist entitled “JMMV
Tea Being Drunk: none. I’m between students, filling time. There’s no good tea here.
Books Being Read: The Pier Falls — Mark Haddon

Epigraph

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)

I’m not much of an activist. Truthfully, one might say I totally suck at being an activist. You really do not want me as your front man, regardless of your cause. It’s just not my thing.

That said, I can certainly stand up for something I think is important. Today, I’m standing up for words (which, of course, relate to actions and thoughts.) We’ll have a vocabulary lesson.

Let’s start with this word: ostracism. Here’s part of the spiel thieved from Etymonline:

ostracism (n.) Look up ostracism at Dictionary.com1580s, a method of 10-year banishment in ancient Athens, by which the citizens gathered and each wrote on a potsherd or tile the name of a man they deemed dangerous to the liberties of the people, and a man whose name turned up often enough was sent away.
A similar practice in ancient Syracuse (with banishment for five years) was by writing names on olive leaves, and thus was called petalismos.

 Here’s another word, teach, the etymology of which is taken from the same dictionary (which is certainly serving me well today):

teach (v.) Look up teach at Dictionary.comOld English tæcan (past tense tæhte, past participle tæht) “to show, point out, declare, demonstrate,” also “to give instruction, train, assign, direct; warn; persuade,” from Proto-Germanic *taikijan “to show”…

The usual sense of Old English tæcan was “show, declare, warn, persuade”…

These are some rather definite words. If one were to put them together, i.e. ostracise someone to teach them a lesson, the tone is hostile. This is not something we would do to express affection, love or respect for a person.

Here’s a third word: bigot. Again, let’s follow that with the wisdom from Etymonline:

bigotry (n.) Look up bigotry at Dictionary.com1670s, from French bigoterie “sanctimoniousness,” from bigot (see bigot).

bigot (n.) Look up bigot at Dictionary.com1590s, “sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite,” from French bigot (12c.), which is of unknown origin… Sense extended 1680s to other than religious opinions.

As I am not a journalist, I do not have to be objective; thus, this last word is to voice my opinion.

As a mother and a teacher (as well as just an ordinary human being), I know that kicking people out of a group does nothing to teach them how to behave within that group. While it might make some of the people feel as though the problem has been solved, it’s just been swept under the rug–and under the rug is a good place for things to fester.

Here’s a better word, one that might be more useful, all around: educate.

educate (v.) Look up educate at Dictionary.commid-15c., “bring up (children), to train,” from Latin educatus, past participle of educare “bring up, rear, educate” (source also of Italian educare, Spanish educar, French éduquer), which is a frequentative of or otherwise related to educere “bring out, lead forth,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + ducere “to lead,” from PIE root *deuk- “to lead.”

While considering these words, I (finally) signed this petition because I don’t think being ostracised will do anything to teach the police a lesson.

Allow Police Services to March & Be Present In Uniform at Toronto Pride

Leading and training: that might  help solve the prejudice that’s such a problem in our society.

These aren’t the cops you’re looking for.

 

Slowly, But Surely

This Varsity article was written by a kid I used to know–who, obviously, is no longer a kid. (Incidentally, his mind was never that of a kid, even when his elementary-school-aged body was tearing around the church graveyard like a crazed chicken. I’m still enjoying the duality.)

Slowly, but surely

During the toughest of times, a student works to rebuild his faith in the kindness of friends and the world around him

By Stephen Warner

For Ireland… and a Few Other Countries

Ask a Person

Activity Being Avoided: editing
Music In My Head: Vanity — The Avett Brothers
Tea Being Drunk: double-strength Barry’s (it’s bloody cold in here, and the time change was this week, and I’m getting the sniffles, damn it all)
Books Being ReadThe Spawning Ground–Gail Anderson-Dargatz, The Well of Loneliness–Radclyff Hall

Rod Smith recently wrote this blog post: I Ask a Woman… I have a thought or two about that post.

Caveat: I was the parent that stayed home with my kids for over fifteen years. I “wore” my kids in slings and backpacks (I think the term is attachment parenting), slept with them until they decided to move to their own beds, homeschooled them until they chose to go to high school.

Becoming a mother was a deliberate act. I pretty much gave up everything to do the best parenting job I could. I tend to work that way: when writing one book, I don’t work on other books; when concentrating on a project, I get irritated by the need to eat and sleep. I’m happier when I focus on one thing at a time. You are free to look at this from any perspective that pleases you, but the fact is…

Image thieved from Shel Silverstein’s _The Missing Piece_.

 

Of course, there are drawbacks to my way of doing things. The mind-set required to work like this demands ludicrous amounts of time and energy; it’s always physically, psychologically and emotionally taxing. It can be isolating. It limits progress, in a sense, as outside input is usually only permitted between tasks. The lure of perfection is a frequent temptation.

The drawbacks are, in my opinion, negligible compared to the benefits. I feel I work well. I feel I give everything I have. I don’t feel as though I’ve compromised unnecessarily. When I raise my head from the project and present the creation to the world, I rarely have second thoughts about it.

When the kids were younger, questions about my life were always answered with information about the kids. If you ask me now, the response will include students and writing–and very little else. I’m not embarrassed by this. In fact, I’m rather proud of this. If someone is interested in me, or in my life, they’ll be satisfied with my response; if not, I can’t feel obligated to live my life to their standards. (It’s a safe bet they’re not living their life to mine.)

If we ask personal questions, we’re free to be disappointed with the response. If we start asking personal questions with the intent of proselytising, those are no longer questions.

 

For Kellie Leitch

I have no socially-acceptable words for Kellie Leitch and her video, so I respond with a handful of Americans and string instruments in a locker room.