Tag Archives: Joseph Boyden

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.


The Sounds of Silence

Regarding the UBC problem that is said to be Steven Galloway (but seems to be much more than that):

The facts:

  1. November 18, 2015, UBC removed Steven Galloway from his position. The police had been involved in whatever caused this.
  2. June 22, 2016, UBC announced that Steven Galloway would not be returning to his position.

Those are the facts–all of them. Everything else involves hearsay, guessing and pseudonyms.

The problem, as I see it from my reclusive bubble, has nothing to do with Steven Galloway or the victims: the problem is the silence.

UBC is saying nothing.

Steven Galloway is not allowed to say anything.

The people Steven Galloway appears to have hurt in one way or another are not allowed to say anything.

(Joseph Boyden was dismissed from briarpatch Magazine for speaking: they think he should be silent, too.)

Apparently, this silence is to aid in an investigation. I don’t see it: how can a proper investigation be held if no one is allowed to say anything? How will any investigation be worthwhile if the whole of Canada is left to make an uninformed decision and choose a side? (Yes, people will choose sides: that’s part of being human. Much as we would like to think everyone will just wait on the wooden bench while The Big People do their work, it just doesn’t work like that.) Why does everyone have to be quiet? Will the investigation fail if it receives new information in the midst of it?

I am reminded of being a child, having adults (particularly men–no, not my father) tell me that it was not my turn to speak and they would tell me when it was my turn.

The enforced silence has nothing to do with any writers’ abilities or crimes committed against victims. It’s a power trip; it’s an attempt to save face, to keep the most people on the right team.