Tag Archives: Xenophobia

Our Fascist Overlords (So Far…)

There’s an old Arab quote that roughly translates to “Don’t tell me about a man, tell me about his friends.” i.e, you are the company you keep. In spite of the present efforts for a recount in certain key states, we are still very much bracing for a Trump presidency, and perhaps worse yet, a Trump cabinet. Let’s get to meet our new fascist overlords:

2Ambassador to the United Nations: Nikki Haley

Born to Sikh Indian parents, Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley earned acclaim for her decision to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds. While maintaining a number of hardline positions- especially in terms of immigration- Haley again made headlines with her early criticism of then-candidate Trump. Criticism that earned her calls to be deported.

Deported to exactly where remains a mystery, as Haley was born in America. But as plenty of Trump supporters imagine America to be an inherently white country, they showed no qualms about reminding Haley (and people of color) that their presence in this nation is merely tolerated

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Image retrieved via Policy.Mic

Which makes Trump’s decision to offer her UN ambassadorship surprising, and Haley’s acceptance even more so. But perhaps that’s just to show how much the Republican party has chugged the Kool-Aid. A woman who, simply because of her first name and her skin tone, received calls for her “deportation” is now the international face of the same “siren call of the angriest voices.” Certainly it’s a chilling picture of what’s to come, and enough to silence anyone claiming that the house and senate will somehow act as a counterbalance to Trump’s Fourth Reich. Continue reading

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Not so Nice After All: 4 Examples of Racist Canadian History That You May Never Have Heard Of

Canadians like to think that we’re a pretty nice bunch.

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Especially now, as Drumpf’s presidential candidacy reveals the racist underbelly of our neighbours to the South, we Canadians pride ourselves on being nothing like the States. We happily disassociate ourselves from the violence and xenophobia that seems to crop up at every Drumpf rally.

It’s just so incredibly convenient to revel in our not-Americanness, as though that in itself makes us not racist. We try to pretend that same kind of racism doesn’t exist here, even though the same fear-baiting tactic was used in our recent election. We try to ignore the recent hateful attack on Syrian refugees, newly arrived in Canada. We try to forget that our country was built upon the exploitation of people of colour.

In case you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, I’ve included a couple examples below.

1. Canada had Legal Slavery

In elementary school the only time I learned about slavery and Canada was when we studied the Underground Railway. Through these stories of escape and hope I, like many Canadians, was led to believe that Canada had offered an escape for Black men and women who were trapped as slaves in the United States.

What I never knew (until recently) was that Canada was not always the beacon of hope that it appeared. As historian Natasha Henry highlights in her article about Slavery in Canada,

“African slavery existed in the colonies of New France and British North America for over 200 years, yet there remains a profound silence in classrooms and teaching resources about Canada’s involvement in the African slave trade. According to available historical documents, least 4,000 Africans were held in bondage for two centuries in the early colonial settlements of New France (Quebec), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Upper Canada (Ontario).”

Luckily, novelists have begun to draw attention to the stories that our history books have overlooked. Afua Cooper’s The Hanging of Angélique, for example, tells the true story of Canadian slave Marie-Joseph Angélique. Meanwhile, Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negros, reminds us that many escaped slaves were actually shipped back to the States by Canadian authorities. He also explores the extreme racism that drove some black Canadians to move to Sierra Leone. Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Caucus

Today marks the start of voting in the Iowa Caucus, a crucial stage in the great and bloody pageant that is our Democratic process. And while the tallied results will doubtlessly dominate the news over the next days (until the  New Hampshire caucus steals the spotlight) it should be remembered that, while important, the results are far from deterministic. Plenty of presidential hopefuls have won here only to ultimately lose the nomination. All of which is to simply say that we will not (I repeat, not) be making any foolhardy attempts at predicting the outcome here.

That’s not our job.

What we will be doing is- now that the dust has finally started to settle- is count up the casualties and figure out what the numbers say about us.

The Head & The Heartless

As of the writing of this post, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders are neck and neck for the hearts and minds of their devotees in the Hawkeye state. And that alone should be of note, seeing as how a year ago Hillary’s nomination was being treated as a given, with some even dubbing the primaries more of a “coronation” than a contest.

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Which is probably less pleasing to some than others…

Why It’s A Good Thing:

Look, it’s no secret that yours truly is an avowed Leftist. And as such, I’m still not entirely certain what to make of Bernie Sanders. Part of me, of course, wants to like the guy. I do want to see Universal Healthcare, free higher education, drug legalization, and the like. I don’t want the massive, bloated, intrusive pseudo-socialism of Scandinavia. There’s a lot that goes into it, and maybe we can explore that another time, but for the here and now, I’m just happy that it’s a conversation we can even have.

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If you had told me, just a couple years ago, that a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist would have a significant chance at a major nomination and the presidency, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here we are, and for better or ill, we’re the people that have to deal with that. The issues of the working class, of income inequality, of the failures of run-of-the-mill liberalism- these have all found their way to the forefront of our national dialogue and they cannot be dismissed. Even if Sanders fails to clinch the nomination (and that’s still very up in the air), his supporters and sympathizers will certainly not go quietly into the night. From here on out the Democrats (and ostensibly, any major candidate) are going to have to address the increasingly vocal demands for a more equal society.

That, and I love that the eternally smug former Secretary-o’-State is being forced to actually work for this nomination.

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We can probably cover my distaste for this person at a different time…

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Can Video Games Make Thoughtful Social Critiques?

Just to be clear, I am not a gamer. The only video game I ever successfully completed was Jill of the Jungle, which we owned on floppy disk when I was a kid.

I’m pretty sure I only liked this game because Jane was a super cool tough girl,

In fact, up until this past year I would have argued that video games don’t really have any redeeming qualities. At worst, they are a hotbed of misogyny and xenophobia, as chronicled by female gamers on websites like Not in the Kitchen Anymore and Fat, Ugly or Slutty. At best, they are like a bottomless pit where the lives of children and adults disappear, never to resurface.

Although I suppose the same could be said about pretty well anything.

This year a good friend convinced me to try a Digital Humanities class at my University. For those of you who haven’t heard of the field before (I hadn’t either), Wikipedia defines it as the “intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities”.  If you want to see some examples of the kind of research being done in the field, you could check out two of my past posts describing DH scholar Lisa Nakamura’s guest lectures at my university.

While this class has challenged the way I see technology in general, it has particularly challenged my very negative perception of video games. In fact, Ian Bogost, one of the DH scholars we studied in the course, argues that games can form powerful arguments and unique social critiques. In his book, Persuasive GamesBogost describes arguments made by a game as “procedural rhetoric“, or, more simply as “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions, rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures”.

Below, I’ve included four examples of persuasive games my DH professor shared with the class. Each of these games make relevant and thoughtful arguments that wouldn’t have been as effective if they didn’t appear in their procedural form.

The Parable of the Polygons

Vi Hart and Nicky Case preface their simple browser game by stating that “This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” Hart and Case explain that the triangles and squares are “slightly shapist”. This means that the shapes prefer some level of diversity around them, but will become unhappy if they feel isolated in their community. Players are then asked to drag and drop the shapes until all of the squares and triangles are happy with the community of shapes around them.

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Click on the image to play the game

Once the player begins moving the shapes, it becomes apparent that even a slight bias will lead to large scale segregation. Continue reading

Je suis Miyazaki?

While the tragic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo may be a month behind us, that doesn’t mean that a lot of people aren’t still talking about it.  Most recently, one of those people is (quite surprisingly, given his reclusive reputation) famed animator and all around wonderful human being Hayao Miyazaki.

Now if you don’t already know who this guy is, you are a deprived human being.  Go watch Spirited Away, seriously.  The guy is responsible for some of the most beautiful, creative, and thought-provoking animated films of our age.  He also has some great stuff to say about the state of animation in his home country of Japan.

But anyway, Charlie Hebdo.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, a quick summary:  the aforementioned French satirical paper often featured crude, insulting cartoons mocking various religions, and recently contained a few choice ‘toons about the prophet Muhammad, which then sparked a brutal terrorist attack in which 12 of its staff were killed.  Since then, sales of the periodical have skyrocketed, and many have marched in support of Charlie Hebdo under the banner of “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”).  All in all, the victims have been seen as martyrs for “free speech.”

And what does Miyazaki have to say about all of this?  Well, basically, that the Charlie Hebdo comics were a “mistake.”

Clearly, this will not sit well with many.  But hey, let’s let the man explain.

“For me, I think it’s a mistake to make caricatures of what different cultures worship […] It’s a good idea to stop doing that.”

[via Kotaku‘s translation from Yahoo! News].”

So basically… He wants people to be respectful of the dearly held beliefs of others.

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Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

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One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading

Fame Day: Nate’s Vlogs

We really can’t get started on Fame Day without giving a shout-out to the youth of France, who have turned out en masse over the past couple days in protest of  the forcible deportation of a Roma student who was taken from a school bus in the middle of a field trip. These students have been actively calling for the resignation of the popular anti-Roma Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, to resign, and since the beginning of the protests, French President Hollande has caved to the protest and declared that the formerly expelled Roma student will be allowed to return to school.

For all the flak I give France for their issues with bigotry and Islamophobia, I really have to tip my hat to these students. These are high schoolers coming out across the country to demand justice from their government, and lo and behold, they got responded to (in a way that didn’t exclusively involve tear gas). This took some guts and ingenuity I wish the youth in the US had- I don’t know the last time high schoolers protested independently on any issue (since the 70s, at least), and I really wish the same tradition of dissidence existed over here as it does in other countries.

But let’s move on to the star of the day:

Nate’s Vlogs.

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