Tag Archives: Nigeria

3 Things About Valentine’s Day That Are Less Fun to Criticize Than 50 Shades of Grey

My Facebook feed has been peppered with articles about 50 Shades of Grey in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, and the discussion doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. I certainly do agree that the books and movie sound like they have some super abusive content, and that they might just signal a larger cultural problem that we aren’t deal with, but I also feel like they’re just a little too easy to criticize.

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Instead of preaching to the choir about the 50 Shades series, I plan to make us all feel guilty about the part of Valentine’s Day that is much harder to address: consumerism. This post will focus specifically on the three most common gifts associated with the holiday: flowers, chocolate, and jewelry.

1. Flowers

Did I ever tell you about the job I had picking flowers? It wasn’t actually as easy as it sounds.

The organization I worked for paid by the bundle. If you didn’t cut the stems long enough, or if you included any flowers that had already started to bloom, that bunch was thrown out and you wouldn’t get paid for it. At first, I kind of enjoyed the work. It was monotonous, so I had lots of time for thinking, and I loved being outside in the sun. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always sunny. When it rained my shoes would be sucked deep into the mud. Not to mention how being constantly bent-over made my back hurt. Often, at the end of the day, I would suddenly
realize that the money I made didn’t even equal out to minimum wage. As soon as I was able to get another job, I quit.

That experience was probably the first time I started to think about the history of flowers. Where did they come from? Who picked them? How far were they being shipped? Continue reading

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Clarifying Charlie Hebdo

Let’s face it- there’s no way to avoid this topic. At this point, I don’t know that there’s anything I can say that hasn’t already been said in the past few days. What I’d like to do, if I can’t offer anything new, is at least offer some clarity. Here are the facts, folks:

On the 7th of this month Sayeed and Shareef Kouachi attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for running cartoons deemed “insulting to Islam”. The Kouachi brothers, armed with AK-47s, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher, killed 12 individuals- most of them magazine staff and cartoonists- in addition to wounding several others. Two days later the Kouachis would be killed by French police after a protracted siege in a warehouse. Other suspects involved in the attack are currently being hunted down.

Since the 7th, we’ve seen an outpouring of indignant outrage over the killings, as well as solidarity marches, both for France and for freedom of speech. Despite the near universal solidarity behind Charlie Hebdo, a myriad of differing conclusions have been voiced in the past few days- some good, some bad, and many missing the point entirely (in spite of genuinely good intentions). Let me try to address a few of these below.

Not All Muslims Are Terrorists/Not All Terrorists Are Muslim

…But I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

At this point, parroting that line is starting to feel almost patronizing. It’s an obvious truth, and it shouldn’t need me to defend it. There are millions upon millions of Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to live their lives in peace- among them, Ahmed Merabet, a police officer and the first of the Kouachis victims. Whether the infamous 9/11 attacks (in which American Muslim Mohammad Hamdani died attempting to rescue people from the North Tower) or the thousands of Muslim Arabs and Kurds fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Muslims shouldn’t have to be “rescued”. From Abdul Haji to Aitazaz Hassan Bangash to Malala Yousafzai– there are just as many heroic actions from Muslims as their are heinous ones.

But this is, again, obvious to anyone actually interested. I don’t know that there’s anybody out there who hasn’t already made up their mind about it (for better or for worse). Continue reading

Culture War Correspondence: Sports

GORDON: The GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL of today’s topic is to discuss sports, ladies and gentlemen- which I thought appropriate, considering the devastating defeat of Brazil at the hands of Germany.

KAT: Yeah, it was a real blitzkrieg.

Are you a sports guy Gordon?

GORDON: Classy, Kat. Bring up the darkest and most shameful elements of German history on this, their proudest day.


But to answer the question, no, not at all. I’ve always been an adherent of the belief that if you’re not playing it, it’s probably not all that interesting.

KAT: My apologies to all my fellow Germans out there.

And yes, I think you are really on to something there. The only sport I’ve enjoyed watching at all is soccer and that’s just because I’ve played it (terribly, but I did play) so I understand (most of) the rules.

So, did you actually watch any of the games in the World Cup?

GORDON: None whatsoever.

I did follow it a little bit, but only to gauge the reactions of average Americans to the comparative success of the team. This has probably been the most invested the American public has been in the sport.

Or anything, really.

Continue reading

Shame Day: The Boko Haram Kidnappings (and the reasons I postponed reporting it)

I’m currently living with my in-laws. At our house John and I almost never watch the news, but living with them means that most evenings I take in at least an hour or two of current events. For weeks I’ve been listening to CNN run flight simulations to try and guess where the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went. I’ve also seen hours of footage from the South Korean ferry accident, including the gut-wrenching clips of the young kids saying goodbye to their parents. Despite all of that it was only recently that I heard the first report of the group of girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

It’s possible that I just wasn’t watching at the right time, or that it wasn’t featured on Western news stations over the past few weeks because of attempts by the Nigerian government to downplay the situation. I’m definitely not saying that the case hasn’t been reported at all, since African and international media were reporting on this case long before we were over here. Continue reading

Shame Day: Plastic

Plastic. I really hate it. I really didn’t realize how much I hated plastic until I went to Niger and saw this.

dump in niger

There were several mini-dumps like this in neighbourhoods near where I lived.

 

Continue reading

Black Panther, Batwing, and African Superheroes

Four days ago actor Morris Chestnut, who will appear in the upcoming Kick-Ass 2, posted the following on both his Twitter feed and Facebook page:

It’s time to get familiar with the Black Panther character.

This prompted the usual onslaught of internet speculation, and both have since been taken down. The next day he wrote a tweet to quell the masses who were clamouring to hear more about an upcoming Black Panther film.

I, for one, was personally grateful to hear this news.

“Why?” you might be asking, “Evan, I thought you were all about introducing the Wakandan super-king into the Marvel cinematic universe.” You would not be wrong in your assessment, and let me explain why, exactly, I felt this way. Continue reading