Today, on International Women’s Day, I’ve been reminded of how grateful I should be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been flipping through images of women’s protests around the world. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching sentimental videos that make me feel inspired (even if they are marketing ploys by Google). Either way, I can’t help but feel grateful.
By the time this post goes up around midnight tonight, it will no longer be International Women’s Day. Before then, I’d like to take a moment to be thankful, and highlight ways we can support other women in their fight to win these privileges too.
1. Freedom and Safety
When I get up in the morning, I do not feel afraid. My country is not at war. My physical safety is not threatened. Throughout history, this was not something most women could take for granted. In many countries around the world this is still something women cannot take for granted.
I love democracy. No bullshit. The idea of “one citizen, one vote” fills me with hope and pride. As a woman, a Canadian, and a self-declared citizen of the world I am acutely aware that voting is a hard-won privilege. People my age (particularly women) have given life and limb to make voting my right. So usually, when I vote, I swell with pride. This year I hated voting. Voting made me so sad. Because this year I voted strategically. In Vancouver South Liberal party candidate Harjit Sajjan is most likely to beat Conservative candidate Wai Young. So I voted Liberal.
Before I get too far I need to note I’m not a right-wing-hater. In fact, I pride myself on being relatively non-partisan (but left). I don’t think that people who vote Conservative have bad hearts. In fact I am sure there is enormous goodness in the heart of your average Conservative MP. Good hearts aren’t hard to come by. I do think that the government, as it is, has gone too far. I believe that Stephen Harper’s once good heart has been corrupted by unchecked power. And that’s why I lied on my ballot.
Nor am I a Liberal-hater. Like many of his Conservative competitors and coworkers Justin Trudeau has a good heart. Since I was a child I loved Justin Trudeau. He was my political celebrity crush. He was my rock star. He was like the sensitive one from a political boy band.
I had so much hope for his solo career. And that childhood crush sort of lingered through until adulthood. I was SO excited when I heard that he (he!) would be speaking at my university (mine!!!). I was going to get to be in the same room as Justin Trudeau! I couldn’t wait to hear what political wisdoms he would impart and what solutions he would offer to the Conservative infestation we seemed to be having in the cabinet. I arrived two hours early and helped set up chairs. Then he started to speak. At first I was confused. Then I got sad. Then his stupid face started to piss me off.Continue reading →
Gangs of schoolchildren sporting red scarves chant slogans as they march through the streets. A shop owner tears down an old sign for containing counter-revolutionary terminology. A man is publicly shamed for wearing pants too tight for manual labor- a young woman with scissors cut from the hem to above the knee. The son of a landlord is dragged through the streets as insults are hurled at him.
These are scenes from the so-called “Cultural Revolution”. Begun by Mao and his followers in 1966, these rallies and mass actions were meant to purge China of the last vestiges of antiquated, foreign, and Capitalist thought, replacing it with a proletarian culture that would forever cement the victory of the Maoists in 1950.
The Cultural Revolution quickly degenerated into something that could only be likened to the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution, with anyone accused of counter-revolutionary sentiment facing political and physical attacks. The “revolution” became a hotbed for corruption and suppression of dissent of any kind, and one might even argue that this major attempt to push socialism upon its inhabitants is actually what eventually led to the unraveling of Chinese Communism and its replacement with the sweatshops and slave-labor we more commonly associate with that nation today.
Mao, you see, had it backwards- trying to seize power and then change the hearts and minds of the public. That’s not a revolution, comrades, that’s just a coup. Rosa Luxemburg, an early but seminal Marxist thinker, once asserted that even if each and every civil servant and elected official were to suddenly become Communists, the world would not be one iota closer to being a Socialist one. Luxemburg understood the true nature of revolution- not some bleak military conquest but a fundamental change in the thinking and values of the majority of society. My ability to make you memorize Lenin, work on communal farms, and wave red-and-black flags will not make you Communists, no matter how long you do it (and even if it did, you’d be some pretty lousy Communists at that). The entire disastrous venture of the cultural revolution may have been avoided had Mao heeded the words of American Socialist and presidential candidate Eugene Debs when he proclaimed:
In the simplest possible terms, leaders come and go, the great will of the masses does not. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The fight to change the basic values and principals of the people must come first– but how is this done?Continue reading →
On Saturday, I attended the inaugural caucus of the Clark County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.
For work purposes only, people, keep your shirts on. Gordon’s still as red-and-black as ever.
All in all it wasn’t terrible- I actually got an opportunity to talk to the keynote speaker, a local congressman, about the impending vote on military action against my adopted homeland of Syria (for the record, I said if we had money to bomb Syria, we have money to spend giving refugees the medicine, food, and housing they so desperately need).
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about what was said (over and over), before the congressman started taking questions from the crowd. Continue reading →
EVAN: The particular topic of discussion that comes to us today is more one that finds itself passed back and forth within Christian circles, and that is: “Why is Christian media so bad?”
GORDON: I think the problem is self-imposed by the religion (I use the term loosely) itself. We’re not talking about a lack of funding (we’ve got plenty of good low-budget films), or a lack of good directors (there’s plenty of decent talent out there), we’re talking about an issue that runs right down the core of it all.
“Christian” media can’t just be media- they have to drag in everything that goes with it.
EVAN: So basically what you’re saying, and we talked about this a little earlier, is that Christian media more often than not has an agenda, correct?
GORDON: I’d say plenty of it has an agenda, but no, I don’t think that’s the core issue- there’s plenty of other preachy movies out there.
EVAN: So what are you saying, exactly?
GORDON: I’m saying that “Christians” can’t make good media because they won’t allow themselves to. Every protagonist has to fit the moral code to a tee, so that they wind up as either Aslan 2.0 or the epitome of Christian morality: John Smith, the middle class suburban, patriotic family man. Which is why I keep putting “Christian” in quotation marks.
We’re not talking about Catholic peasants in El Salvador or the East Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.
EVAN: Okay, I like that a lot, this idea that those creators of Christian media [and primarily I think we’re talking about films] box themselves in. They’re telling the same sorts of stories to who they perceive to be their audience [and they’re not wrong]: white suburban middle class families.
To sort of break this up a little, I actually saw a Christian film that was reasonably passable at some point last summer.
GORDON: Was it related in any way to Steve Taylor?
EVAN: Is that any way related to “End of the Spear”? It was not, if that’s what you’re referring to.
GORDON: Steve Taylor is the only good Christian musician who ever has or ever will have existed.
But anyway, what was the movie you saw?
EVAN: It was called “To Save a Life,” and it stood out for a couple of reasons:
1) The cinematography was shockingly good for something produced and made by Christians. You can tell which movies they are within the first few seconds.
2) The “villain” of the piece was actually the pastor’s kid. Which was- refreshing, and kind of nice.
It kind of broke out of the whole stereotype you introduced earlier.
GORDON: Huh- interesting. I’ll have to check out the trailer. But let me ask you this:
Can a Christian make a James Bond movie?
EVAN: You mean a movie starring a suave, debonair British man who beds women and guns down henchmen as naturally as he dons his suit jacket every morning?
I’d say no, probably not.
GORDON: I think that’s the problem. It’s not just that you can’t have any explicit sex or graphic violence or excessive profanity (which are overused and abused as is), you can’t have anything even remotely sensual or rough or crude. It rips away reality and humanity in the name of not stepping on anyone’s toes.
EVAN: Well, I’d say the difference is that you can’t have a protagonist who glorifies such things as wanton sexuality-
I say that Christian filmmakers will never produce anything like James Bond because of who the character is.
GORDON: Did you like the movie “Fight Club”?
EVAN: I liked it a fair amount.
GORDON: Did you like “Ocean’s 11” or “Snatch”?
EVAN: I haven’t seen the latter, but I very much enjoyed the former.
GORDON: Did you like “Superbad”? “Kick-Ass”? “Ironclad”?
But I think you’re going to have to get to your point-
GORDON: Could a Christian make any of these movies?
EVAN: I think a Christian could, yes. In relation to “Fight Club”, at least, Christian author Ted Dekker has penned novels [sold both in and out of Christian bookstores] which offer a fairly decent psychological thriller aspect to the reader.
GORDON: Ah, Dekker. The whole reason he stands out as an exception is- I believe- that he grew up among Indonesian headhunters, and not in Middle America. Again, it’s about having that different perspective on life.
EVAN: And I think what he’s realized, as a creator of the arts, as someone who has a hand in shaping Christian media, is that you can have these other sorts of exciting, thrilling stories told with a faith-built worldview. People of every religion want a little excitement.
GORDON: Of that there’s no question. The heavy use of the video library at our school stands in testament to that.
But again I think the issue is that “Christian” self-imposed isolation inevitably leads to the vast majority of their work winding up as “White People Problems” or “Chronicles-of-Narnia-minus-the-good-stuff”…
EVAN: Or “Lord-of-the-Rings-but-way-more-heavy-handed.”
EVAN: I mean, we’ve talked a little bit about why Christian media can be bad [terrible production values, cookie-cutter story lines, sheer absurdity], but how could it be better [to harken back a little to our last talk]?
GORDON: They have to stop being terrified of the big bad world. They have to realize they can show characters with flaws- real flaws- not drunkard stereotypes and the occasional swear word.
Saying this will get you expelled from Liberty, Pensacola, and BJU
EVAN: I mean, a deeply flawed person who finds redemption is a much more compelling story than a white bread sort of guy with his middle class problems.
And they have to stop coddling their audience. Yes, Christians turn to Christian media for “better alternatives,” but the odd cuss word won’t negate an overall positive message; neither will a fight scene, or two guys sitting around enjoying a beer.
GORDON: There’s this one scene in a (Christian) movie Steve Taylor directed:
A character hurts his hand loading something into the back of van. He lets loose a cuss word and his buddy chides him for it, saying “God don’t like it when we cuss.”
Later on in the film, the buddy hangs his head and apologizes, saying “I’m sorry. I was upset that you cussed- I should’ve just been upset that you hurt your hand.”
EVAN: Wow. That is very, very good.
GORDON: That right there is the problem not just with Christian media, but with the whole religion.
EVAN: Misplaced priorities.
GORDON: More obsessed with present clean-cut paragons of middle class etiquette than anything really real.
That’s why we turn to “secular” movies for actual substance. The struggle for identity in “Fight Club”, the heroism in “Kick-Ass”, the friendship in “Superbad.”
EVAN: I think what’s really ironic is that Christian media-makers have a Christian-made work out there that’s immensely popular. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” came out just this past December.
GORDON: I again reference an (alleged) quote by Steve Taylor.
“I’m not a Christian artist- I’m an artist who is Christian- it affects what I do.”
EVAN: Really well-put. And something that a lot of us [I speak for many in our graduating class] as writers, musicians, artists, et cetera would benefit from keeping in mind.
And that puts us more than a little overtime.
GORDON: Well, people, you know what that means. Time to vote on our subject for next week.
EVAN: My contribution this time around is . . . wow, I never think ahead . . . masculinity. You’ve done a post about “Manly Culture” in the past, but I want to talk about what it is at present, and how we feel about the shifts and trends and things.
GORDON: Interesting subject. I submit we speculate on the upcoming Star Wars movies.
EVAN: If you think you’re up for it, then yeah, cool. I’ve read quite a few of the post-original-trilogy books, so I know a reasonable amount about the subject.
And with that witty response, we’re out! Have a good night, everyone.
Cynicism about the economy, the job market, and basically anything in “the world today” is inappropriately and lazily fashionable right now, I think. Not that I’m foolish enough to say that the aforementioned institutions have nothing going wrong with them; it’s just that the default conversation seems to too often involve predictions of our gloomy, futureless futures, especially for my demographic – that is, middle class college students in the US.
Those of us who are reading this on the internet, who have enough food to eat, who have clean water to drink and somewhere warm to sleep, and who are able to rely on at least temporary financial assistance from our relatives if we really needed it – we are some of the most privileged people in the world right now, economically and situationally.
To be clear, I don’t think we’re guaranteed happiness. Life is hard. And sad. But I do think that we have been given ample resources to construct a stable and joyful existence, however, and I think that it might be healthy to occasionally reflect upon that fact with a simple and unaffected sense of baffled gratitude.
Students now are groomed not only to succeed academically but to operate professionally. We’ve been taught textbooks worth of information and, more importantly, a work ethic—the emotional benefits of which you can discount if you like but which does, it cannot be denied, set one up rather nicely for social and economic success (in the West at least). Some of us read nonfiction and enjoy it sometimes. Most of us will never be homeless. Almost all of us have some sort of skill that we cultivate for no career-oriented reason. We have learned that sometimes we are wrong, that sometimes our opinions matter and (possibly most importantly) that sometimes they don’t.
And yeah, going from college into the Real World is going to be a rather shocking change for many of us. But I think most of us will thrive on the opportunity to do work for money, after floundering in abstract work while paying lots of money to do so (yes, in the long term this makes sense, but when you are writing a paper at 3 in the morning and think to yourself that this is costing you your life’s savings, the logic of the situation is hard to articulate).
When the terror of post-graduation becomes paralyzing, I think it might be helpful to remember that we are all rather intelligent, capable, ingenuous people. We might get a job the summer after we graduate that has nothing to do with our major, but we will know to be thankful for a job, and we will be able to do it to the best of our overqualified abilities. And we might not be able to achieve whatever two-dimensional ideal of living we hold in our heads (I’m an English major, so for most of my friend group this involves “a cabin in the woods somewhere” and lots of books and wine and maybe facial hair), but I think we have the resources to find joy and a sense of potency in whatever work is at hand, whether it be academic work or scraping by for a few years at a job for which we are wholly overqualified. So I have hope that my generation can survive if given the chance.