Shattered Dreams

‘So much for your promises…’
Johnny Hates Jazz, ‘Shattered Dreams,’ Turn Back the Clock, 1988

Canada is having a federal election this year, and I’m taking some time to reflect on the past few years. Oh, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, how have you lied to us and let us down? Let me count the ways…

Prime Minister Trudeau promised–even before being elected as Prime Minster of Canada–to improve the government’s relationship with First Nations, and acknowledged the killing of Indigenous women is not a relic of the past, but an ongoing issue. But the government approved, then purchased, the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, which will lead to, among other things, violence against First Nations women and girls.

Speaking of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, Trudeau promised–on Twitter–to put a price on pollution–after his government purchased the pipeline. And I seriously doubt the government, or the company they bought the pipeline from, will pay for the pollution the pipeline causes. Oh, did I mention Joe and Jane Canadian Taxpayer are the ones paying for the pipeline?

Recently, the news reported the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into intervening in criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin, and now–now a couple of weeks before the federal election in Canada–the Liberals don’t want to talk about it, because they were implicated in it and it thus makes them look bad, and they want Canadian voters to develop collective amnesia about it so it doesn’t affect their chances of winning the majority in the election. I don’t know how I feel about Wilson-Raybould, but the LIberals, under Justin Trudeau, have royally shot themselves in the foot with this scandal, and their involvement therein.

Then there’s the brownface kerfuffle, which, judging from the research I’ve done, will be its own post, or, at least, part of its own post.

So, there it is–a few ways Justin Trudeau, during his time as Prime Minister of Canada, has lied to the Canadian populace and let us down. But, knowing Canadian politics like I do, I don’t see anything Trudeau has done affecting his chances in the election.

 

 

The Child’s Play Reboot and Social Commentary

On July 1, I saw the reboot of the horror movie Child’s Play, inspired by a review I read in a Vancouver free daily newspaper.

I haven’t seen the original movie, but, from what I’ve heard and read, the doll Chucky came into being by way of a serial killer using voodoo to transfer his soul into a nearby doll. In the reboot, the dolls–one of whom become Chucky–are run by way of artificial intelligence; thus the reboot offers social commentary on how artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword, and, if humans aren’t careful, something like Terminator can become a reality.

Spoilers ahead

The movie comments on other aspects of society, however. Going into the theatre, I wondered why Chucky absorbed only the worst of human behaviour, when even actual children absorb the good and the bad. My mental question was answered practically at the beginning of the movie: In the Kaslan factory in, of all places, Vietnam (most factories for American corporations, in the real world, are in India, China, the Philippines, and various parts of Latin America), a supervisor verbally abuses, then fires, one of the workers, who then disables every function (including the ones that stop the doll he’s working on from becoming violent) in the AI tube going into the doll, and inserts it–all while displaying great relish in his actions–in a subtle comment on what happens when you treat the people who work for you like crap. Now, I understand that, in the real world, not all workers whose bosses abuse them develop sociopathic tendencies, but certain people, given enough reason, will turn on the world around them in their own ways and wreak havoc. And the Vietnamese worker in the Child’s Play reboot wreaks havoc–and how–via the last doll he worked on before he was turned out on his ear. This scene also comments, I believe, on First World corporations exploiting Third World labour.

Chucky is part of a line of toys called ‘Buddi’ dolls, whose tagline–given to them by the Kaslan Corporation–is ‘a friend to the end.’ Never mind the fact that, at some point, kids stop being kids and thus outgrow toys, and people, even children, can drift apart over time, for various reasons. Andy is a preadolescent in this movie, and initially doesn’t want a Buddi doll, but his mom, Karen, gets him one anyway, on impulse, possibly thinking the only consequence of doing so will be the doll collecting dust from never being used. Little did she know…

Karen and Andy are apparently new in town, and Andy clearly has trouble making friends–which changes after Karen gets him Chucky, as he befriends two of his neighbours, who get Chucky to curse (which, according to my memory, is the worst thing they do). But things go off the rails when Andy and his new human friends guffaw at a TV showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, during which Chucky tries to kill the friends after seeing a scene from the movie; when Andy chastises him, he claims he was trying to make Andy happy.

And it doesn’t stop there. Andy hates his mother’s boyfriend, Shane–who is, to a degree, abusive (and who is also cheating on his wife with Karen)–and Chucky sees this as a licence to kill him. But Chucky doesn’t want Andy to have any friends beyond him, either–case in point Karen and Andy’s neighbour Doreen (whose son, Mike, is a cop), who Chucky eventually kills upon seeing camera footage of her, Mike, and Andy having dinner and hearing Doreen tell Andy he’s her new best friend after Andy shows her how to use a phone to order a car to take her to bingo night. As well, Chucky tries to turn everyone against Andy–by, in one instance, showing video footage of Shane’s decapitated head in Andy’s bedroom. Friend to the end, or possessive?

What I took away from the Child’s Play reboot–besides recognizing technology is a double-edged sword (as if I didn’t know that already)–are the possible social consequences of buying products from seemingly domestic businesses but which were actually manufactured in downtrodden foreign nations; the possible consequences of impulse shopping; and that some relationships can become toxic, especially if boundaries and ground rules aren’t established. The film also hammered home for me that pieces of popular culture–such as this movie–can, even unintentionally, serve as social commentary, disguised as entertainment.

Does Life Begin at 40?

I attended the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF) this weekend, and I’ve developed an interest in adding writing comics and graphic novels to my oeuvre/portfolio. But, of course, I need practice. Lots of it.

I turned forty last month, and only now I’m developing an interest like this. I’m also interested in video games–an interest I’ve developed in my thirties–and various forms of technology. But I realize I’m not getting any younger, so I’m determined to do something about these interests now.

I didn’t know why I didn’t develop these interests when I was younger; now I realize it may be because I was a cultural snob, starting when I was, at my youngest, a pre-adolescent, if not sooner. I could go into ‘coulda-shoulda-woulda’ mode here, but what’s done is done, and I have to live with that, and the consequences.

Now, back to the present.

In terms of my career, I still have gotten nowhere, though I am trying. In terms of just trying to survive, I’m lost at sea. Conventional wisdom states you’re supposed to have everything figured out, and be settled down, at the age of thirty years old; I’m forty years old, and I’m still not where I want to be. And I’m torn between being ashamed and being grateful I’m still alive to do something about my circumstances. For instance, I’ve started writing out a chapter outline for the latest draft of my first novel after I’ve lost count of how many attempts to get the the damned draft written (again, I could go into ‘coulda-shoulda-woulda’ mode here, but I’m doing the outline now, before I’ve shown the draft to an editor), I’ve gone back to doing practice sketches, and I’m now interested in learning how to create and produce comics. (I know, at this point, I should do things in bits and pieces, but I’ve got ideas, and I like to at least write them down and start work on them while I’m thinking about them.) Also, I’ve increased my exercise schedule, and I’ve decided to start eating healthy, while tidying up my place and preparing to move house within the next two years (which I’m doing now, as opposed to waiting until the last minute and scrambling).

At this point, I’m asking myself if life begins at forty, or if I’m just using that as an excuse for wasting the previous years of my life. But I guess time will tell.

Talking About Free Speech–Again

Yep, it’s that time again–another diatribe about free speech.

This episode was brought about by a group of people informing me and some others of an article by Stephanie Zvan, titled ‘Nazis, No-Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech,’ in which she expresses support for Richard Spencer getting punched in the face by a man in black and states, ‘Punching Richard Spencer is perhaps the best PR black bloc has ever had.’ A handful of people I know who have read the article seem to think Zvan is advocating violence, in the way she lauds Spencer getting punched.

I disagree with Zvan about punching Richard Spencer being even a good PR move, never mind the best one the black bloc has ever had, for the following reasons: a) police have historically gone undercover in activist circles, advocated committing crimes, and actually committed crimes while masked (among other tactics) to justify cracking down on dissent (see COINTELPRO); b) the person getting punched or otherwise assaulted can milk boatloads of sympathy from their supporters and those who don’t know any better, and thus get more support for their cause while making anyone who sides, even politically and philosophically, with their attacker look like at least a million miles of bad road; and c) Richard Bertrand Spencer and Company simply aren’t worth it. Don’t punch or otherwise assault fascists or fascist sympathizers, people. We’re better than that.

I’m not for punching people who spout ideas I find repulsive, but I understand we as a species don’t always think of the best course of action in the heat of the moment. I also understand it’s impossible to talk to people whose minds are already made up, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

And that’s why I’m for no-platforming.

Let’s be clear: No-platforming is not a form of censorship. Those being no-platformed can still spread their ideas from other platforms and forums. The government isn’t getting involved, so no one is being censored. Also, no one is owed a platform or an audience, so if people find your ideas repulsive or otherwise disagree with you/them and don’t want to hear what you have to say, you’ll just have to suck it up and move on. And it really bugs me how fascists and proto-fascists have a beyond-annoying tendency to use their freedom of speech to stamp on their critics’ and opponents’ freedom of speech, and make bad-faith arguments about free speech in order to recruit and push their ideas into the mainstream discourse (see Sir Oswald Mosley).

There is a line between ‘radical’ and ‘tankie,’ and oftentimes that line can seem fine, but we can’t continue having important discussions on terms dictated by those with privilege. How many times does the left have to tell the right and the centre, as well as other leftists, that freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences? I have become quite familiar with the concept of ‘freeze peach’–essentially, a bastardization of the term ‘free speech,’ in which its advocates actually want consequence-free speech–but only for themselves. Actual free speech doesn’t work that way, though–freedom of speech is for everyone who lives in societies which have it. You can say what you want, but–again–no one is owed a platform or an audience, and there are consequences, especially if you go too far.

All told, I think Zvan is saying that we as a society have allowed individuals to abuse the value of freedom of speech to devalue other, marginalized human beings, and even try to deny them their right to exist and to make the world worse for all but a few privileged individuals for long enough, but I think she communicates this idea in such a way as to allow for misreading and misinterpretation of her article–and this serves poorly the cause(s) she is advocating for. And she doesn’t help herself or her cause(s) by failing to elaborate on what she means by ‘good speech’ and ‘bad speech’–‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not objective values, after all.

This is not the end of the debate about freedom of speech, nor the last time I stick my oar in to give my two cents’ worth about speech–far from it. I feel the need to stand up for freedom of speech and fight against the abuse thereof, no matter how tiresome the debate gets. But these are my thoughts about freedom of speech, and how it’s used.

New Year, (Hopefully) New Me

A new year has begun, and I enter it with the best of intentions. I have made my plans for this year, and have even found at least one way to make myself accountable for achieving my goals. At this juncture, I would do anything to make sure I have something to show for all of my efforts at the end of this year, especially since I’ll be turning forty this spring.

The one way I have found to make myself accountable for achieving my goals this year is what’s known as a bullet journal, which I’ve created to keep myself on track vis-a-vis my tasks for this year and which I plan to use often. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes in creating this journal–it’s my first bullet journal, after all–but it’ll definitely serve its purpose.

My goals for this year are: complete a novel I’ve spent a good decade trying to write; finish planning another one; start saving money again, and get my finances in order; get on a regular exercise schedule; eat healthier food than I have been; get most of my belongings packed up (I’m moving house in 2021, or before), and improve my housekeeping habits; increase my visual art and photography skills; find other income streams besides my current job; increase my output on my blog and vlog and start a podcast; and return to political activism, if only part-time. I know that sounds like a lot, and I’m going to try not to spread myself too thin, but these are things I feel I need to do.

I don’t know if I’m set for 2019, but it seems I’m on my way.

Lynn Beyak

I’m once again tardy to the party, but I believe this instance is a case of better late than never.

For those of you not in the know–and/or haven’t, for some reason, been keeping abreast with news in Canada–Lynn Beyak is a Canadian senator, who really shouldn’t be at this moment, for reasons I’ll go into now.

Beyak’s claim to fame, as far as I can tell, is whining about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report focusing on the atrocities which occurred in the residential schools and not students’ good experiences or the ‘good intentions’ of the people who worked in, and ran, the schools, then doubling down and even whinging about ‘fake news’ when she was initially called out for her remarks, instead of offering a mea culpa, if not an apology.

Here are my thoughts on the whole ‘good intentions’ spiel: a) colonization and cultural genocide are never good; b) ‘good intentions gone wrong,’ or any variation thereof, is simultaneously a cop-out and a form of gaslighting; c) intent doesn’t matter–what matters is what happens when the rubber hits the road. Oh, and that there are former residential-school students who had good experiences in the schools shouldn’t discount the stories of those who’ve been hurt by the residential-school system, and colonization in general.

Beyak then further classed up the joint by stating First Nations should trade their status cards for Canadian citizenships (pssst…First Nations are already Canadian citizens), and all ethnic groups should practice their cultures “on their own time and their own dime.” I see a hint of white supremacy in this statement, but draw your own conclusions.

Beyak has faced consequences for her repugnant remarks, but should no longer be in government, as her remarks, given her position, give her views a smidgen of legitimacy–and in an age where making such remarks is now considered a social faux pas, considering the damage they do. As she’s a senator, she’s made her remarks while being paid to sit in the Canadian government. She’s a blemish on the face of the Government of Canada, a public-relations disaster, and a national embarrassment for those of us with the decency to be embarrassed and appalled by her remarks and behaviour. (Note to Member of Parliament Tony Clement: Calling for Beyak’s ouster from Senate is not a form of censorship; she can still make her remarks, just not from a position of power, and she won’t be paid–and with Canadian tax dollars, at that–for making them. Just to clear that up.)

The sad thing is, Beyak had choices. She could have acknowledged that colonization is a bad idea, and promoted adopting the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. She could have reached out to First Nations–and not just those people who would tell her what she wants to hear–and actually listened to them. Instead, she chose to throw a temper tantrum and go the route of political grandstanding and white fragility–no doubt with the wholesale support of those who agree with her.

Ecofeminism: My Perspective

It’s been a long time coming, but here’s my take on ecofeminism.

It is possible to be an ecofeminist and to be scientifically literate, have thoughts grounded in reality, and not buy into old ideas of gender. But that’s not all that’s needed to improve ecofeminism, and the way it’s perceived: We need to ditch essentialist, and black-and-white, thinking, while recognizing the difference between recognizing nuance and making arguments to moderation; we need to do away with logical fallacies, such as the appeal to ‘ancient wisdom’, and to start making actual arguments; and we need to stop romanticizing ‘traditional’ ways of doing things–in any area of the world–while demonizing modern conveniences such as machines, and recognize the benefits science and technology provide, while understanding science and technology are merely tools.

As far as I’m concerned, the world needs an ecofeminism whose proponents understand how science and technology work and don’t subscribe to, or promote, mysticism, but also understand science and technology have to go hand-in-hand with political will and action, businesses modifying their model (profit-making) and people, especially those with privilege, changing our attitudes and behaviours. We also need to change the image the public has of ecofeminists and others who want to change the status quo, chiefly to make these movements more inclusive to everyone.