A new personal training and fitness studio in Toronto’s Little Italy. Check out the website here, and let’s revel in some of that sweet, sweet SEO.
art by Chameleon Horse art & design.
Trolling the internet I found a few interesting statements about today’s announcement that the US Army Corps of Engineers has denied the easement to drill under Lake Oahe, a reservoir of the Missouri River. I took the liberty of collecting a few FB comments, some of which contradict Standing Rock Sioux tribal chair tribal chair Dave Archambault II’s statement that protesters should now go home…
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Apologies to those of you who’ve been following here.
(isolated muffled coughing)
(a lone tumbleweed rolls slowly across the stage)
As some of you may know, I’ve had to firewall this blog for some awkward reasons, but please read and follow me at my new site … solchrom.com. I’ll be repurposing some of the content here over there as needed. I won’t be burying this site, and if you know anyone who doesn’t have access but wants it, just let me know.
(I’m here all week. Try the veal.)
Been watching the news lately (I know, I know, I should find another hobby) …
If you’re white, you benefit from racist power structures and racist forms of social organization. And you’ve most likely internalized the underlying racist assumptions to the point where you feel threatened or defensive whenever anyone questions them or makes them explicit. That’s what #WhitePrivilege is. It doesn’t necessarily make you a sheet-wearing, cross-burning caricature, but to the extent that you don’t question or work to dislodge those power structures, you’re helping to perpetuate systemic racism. And that, whether you like it or not, makes you guilty of racism yourself. It’s not surprising at all that a lot of white folks react to this so viscerally, and want to project their discomfort onto others by complaining about activists stirring up racial conflict. But part of being a committed anti-racist is owning your own racism — and doing what you can to overcome it.
What can I say? It’s one of Shakespeare’s goriest, most intense, most riveting pieces of work. It’s got everything: action, ambition, weird sisters, murder, more ambition, more murder, politics, more murder, gender-bending, vengeance, imperialism, and even a few twists of the supernatural. It’s got such a reputation that in some theatre circles, its mere name is an omen, prompting people to refer to it obliquely as “the Scottish play.”
And yet, apart from a few scattered action scenes, the bulk of the film doesn’t seem to move much. Almost every scene is shot in gloomy greys and browns, perhaps in a nod to the play’s dark themes. Visually, however, this makes it a little hard to follow at times. Most of the dialog is spoken in whispers of varying intensity; sometimes the emotion is discernible, sometimes not so much. Some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines have been cut in what sometimes seems like a belated recognition that things are draaaaaaagging and need to be moved along.
Really, folks, it’s Shakespeare. You shouldn’t be fighting to stay awake. I watched three or four people stand up and walk out of the theatre.
Early in the play, Macbeth is wrestling with the prophesy from the three witches and the implicit green light for killing the kindly King Duncan; when I studied it in high-school English class, it was about him struggling with his conscience while Lady Macbeth, already in thrall to the Dark Side, urges him to grow a pair. The discussion between Fassbender’s Macbeth and Marion Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth, however, carries about as much emotional weight as a couple arguing over what colour to paint the living room.
The flatness continues through what should be some of the most emotionally loaded scenes in the script, among them the appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the feast and Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness in the “Out, damned spot” sleepwalk. Both scenes provide the stars with a fat juicy opportunity to carry the film, but in both — well, whatever charge they’re supposed to bring, it seems the battery’s drained. Fassbender never jolts us with the horror, guilt, and paranoia Macbeth’s supposed to feel when he sees Banquo’s blood-spattered shade, and for all the pain and OCD Cotillard’s supposed to be portraying during her somnambulistic hand-washing, she might as well be advertising a dishwashing liquid.
True, you don’t have to chew the scenery, but is a little emotional content too much to ask for?
The last ten minutes, in fairness, are a vivid contrast to the muted torpor of the preceding scenes, if not enough to redeem the film. Especially when the filmmakers ditch the dark greys and browns in favour of a visually riveting advance on Dunsinane by the warriors in Birnam Wood. And the final confrontation between Fassbender and Sean Harris’s vengeful Macduff could have been an outtake from Braveheart.
Bottom line: 6/10. If you’ve seen other versions, it might be worth a go, but if not, start with something else.
One much-discussed paper says a “victimhood culture” is rising at elite American colleges.
Thoughtful piece, crappy headline.
Why? Because casting it in terms of ‘victimhood culture’ implies that complainants want to be seen as victims, with the attendant connotations of ‘speech police,’ ‘political correctness,’ ‘oversensitivity,’ and ‘censorship.’ Moreover, putting air quotes around both microaggressions and victimhood culture suggests a false equivalence whereby the writer is raising doubts about both notions.
Once again, it’s important to distinguish intent from impact. Microaggressions may not be intended to be hurtful, but they do come from a place of privilege. In their broadest sense, they imply that being white, straight, cis, and male is the default setting, and anything else is a departure from the norm. When people call you out on that, they’re not attacking you – they’re drawing attention to that structure of privilege. And when you sneeringly dismiss the notion of microaggression, you’re reinforcing that structure.
Is this it, then? John Lorinc has speculated that if Stephen Harper wins again, the go-for-broke legacy program he hits us with is going to make the last few years feel like a warm bath.
And even if Harper loses, so what? Justin Trudeau isn’t going to fix anything. C-51? He’s fine with it. The G20? Bill Blair is one of his star candidates, and they both seem to think we should all just STFU about it, because after all, it was five years ago. Free trade? That’s just part of the destructive legacy of Chretien/Martin.
Tom Mulcair? Well, even if he has a genuinely progressive agenda, does anyone really think he’ll be allowed to implement it? How much juice does a popular mandate carry nowadays anyway, in the face of coordinated opposition from Bay Street, international finance, the media noise machine, and Serious Responsible People™? We’ll spend a few twitchy years watching the Masters of the Universe using him for a piñata despite his best efforts to seem “moderate” and “reasonable,” and nothing will really change.
Sure, maybe we can have debates over policy, but what are they going to mean when we’ve allowed the scope for public policy to be so profoundly diminished? If we can’t enact laws to protect our environment, our health-care system, our online privacy, our food-safety system, or any other aspect of the public sphere for fear of being sued in secretive supranational tribunals by investment vehicles seeking to recoup lost profits, then what’s the point of even talking about public policy in the first place?
Well … shit. This may be the year we come face to face with it: we’ve lost any semblance of functioning democracy, and we don’t even care because we’re too worn down / frightened into compliance / distracted by sideshows. The election is there to provide the illusion of popular input, but the fundamental direction of the country isn’t going to change no matter who wins. The choices have already been made for us by people we’ll never meet, whose names we’ll never know, whose functions and surreptitious string-pulling we’ll likely never perceive or understand. All we’re doing on election day is picking a brand of toothpaste and kidding ourselves that it really matters. If this isn’t like a malignant cancer, then I don’t know what is.
Let’s be honest. The fabric of society, the whole post-war deal that sustained the so-called “middle class,” has been under concerted attack since the days of Reagan and Thatcher in the early 1980s. With each year, each cut, each act of violence to the social contract, they’ve managed to chip away a little more of the foundation. A small minority takes more and more while everyone else has to make do with less and less. Can anybody point to a successful effort to push it back since then?
Roll back the goalposts? Fat chance. We’ll be lucky if we can even slow the bleeding.
- Rolling back the damage: are we a country, or a commodity?
- Reversing course after one election? Good luck with that
- Civic engagement in the face of democratic deficit
- In defence of the public sphere
- CCPA Alternative Federal Budget Would Boost Spending To Create Jobs
- 2012: The Year of Conversing Dangerously
As a couple of friends have pointed out, some of my recent blatherings about voting may seem inconsistent with my “brand.” You know, civic engagement, the responsibilities of citizenship, the obligations we have to society and to each other … yawn.
Can’t be too surprised that that’s not a huge part of the conversation these days. There’s a lot invested in making sure it isn’t, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise either. The more people are all wound up and angry and yelly and distracted, the less energy and attention they have to focus on the underlying stuff. Fill the window with dead cats and all that.
But once again, maybe we step back and look at this within a larger historical context (dear god, I’m going to hit myself in the head with a hammer — ed.). Let’s reframe this over the course of the last 20 or 30 years. What’s been happening?
The gutting of the public sphere.
The devaluation of civil society.
The emasculation of public institutions.
The dismantling of the social safety net.
Austerity, privatization, deregulation, outsourcing, yada yada yada, all served up with noxious sides of deficit hysteria and tax cuts, and the attendant kneecapping of government’s ability to act.
All predating Stephen Harper, nasty though he is. Again, think back a few decades. Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien. Paul Martin. Running through it all, like a river of toxic slime: the successive implementation of the same agenda. “Free trade” regimes that concentrate more and more wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. Nods to the knuckle-draggers aside, Harper’s just peddling more of the same. Seriously, can anyone point to a substantive change in the country’s direction over the past few decades?
All of this has been encouraged and paid for, of course, by the CEOs, the international investor class, their flunkies, and their cheerleaders in the corporate media, along with the Serious and Responsible People who guard the parameters of conversation and gaslight everyone else into thinking that whatever’s left of the “middle class” shares the same values and interests as the business elites. And always with the same themes: need to compete and obey the diktats of the market. Trade barriers need to come down. Labour flexibility. Capital mobility. Safeguard the rights of investors lest they take their money elsewhere. Anything that interferes with the accumulation of private profit becomes a target.
And what’s the effect? Well, what happens to anything that’s consistently attacked, demeaned, belittled, stripped of resources, and corroded? Gradually but steadily, the fabric of society wears away because the things that hold us together and allow us to act with common purpose are systematically undermined. We are isolated, exhausted, and/or distracted in the face of economic precariousness. What’s the point of acting collectively? What can we accomplish in the face of impersonal global forces which, we’re told over and over, are inevitable and irresistible?
Is it any wonder that the notion of citizenship starts to mean less and less? Is it a coincidence that the avenues for meaningful engagement are closed off while we’re distracted with the latest shinyshiny?
I’m not necessarily suggesting there are no differences among Harper and the opposition leaders in terms of policy or commitment to democratic ideals. But I do fear that the sustained assault on the things that hold us together has gone on for so long, and that the damage to our body politic has been so profound, that it may be too late to restore it.
This has been going on for decades. Does anyone really think a mere change of government is going to fix it?
- Rolling back the damage: are we a country, or a commodity?
- Civic engagement in the face of democratic deficit
- Let’s stop fetishizing “The Market”
- Deficit reduction, austerity, and the meaning of conservatism
- Reviving #ThePublicGood, part 6: Government is not a business
- Reviving the Public Good, part 3: civic engagement
Haven’t really crystallized this into a coherent argument yet, but I can’t remember feeling this disheartened about a federal election since 1997. Ever since then, there’s been a growing malignancy in our body politic — a malignancy that goes beyond partisanship.
Successive governments since then have, for whatever reason, surrendered more and more policy tools, and more and more of their innate capacity to advance the public good, in the face of supranational trade and investment regimes. Regardless of who’s been in power in Ottawa (and provincial capitals, for that matter), we’ve been watching the gradual but unmistakable enfeeblement of government, to the point where it may well be irreversible. As awful as Harper’s been on so many files — environment, the war on women, civil liberties, First Nations, the economy, health care, immigration, housing, veterans, integrity in government, climate change — this didn’t start with him.
What I still don’t understand is, why? Why is government, of whatever stripe, voluntarily abandoning its role? Free Trade, NAFTA, MIA, CETA, FIPA, TPP, whatever. Why are public institutions consenting to, and even participating in, their own enervation? Why are we, through our governments, surrendering our ability to protect ourselves and act in the national interest in favour of a few multinational corporations and allowing them to sue us for notional lost profits? Who benefits from this? Who’s looking out for the common good here?
And that doesn’t even begin to address the glaring faults in our current electoral system. The disfiguring effects of our antiquated, necrotic First Past The Post system have already been discussed, but if there’s any sustained discussion of alternatives or efforts to reform the voting system, or the so-called “Fair Elections Act,” it’s barely being heard above the manufactured controversies and distractions. The conversation’s being dragged into the sewer, and that’s no accident either.
It’s why I’ve been wondering, perhaps at odds with my arguments about the responsibilities of citizenship, about the efficacy of voting. If civic engagement is reduced to casting a ballot every few years for choices that have, in truth, been set out for us, then are we really participating meaningfully in our own governance? Is voting, even if it manages to end the Harper era, going to undo decades worth of damage to civil society? Is it going to put an end to this misguided fetish for austerity? Is it going to reinvigorate the notion of an activist government committed to using the power of public policy to cultivate the greatest good for the greatest number? Is it going to re-assert the primacy of the public sphere in the face of “free trade” regimes and investor-state protections? How likely is it that any government, even the best-intentioned, will move to roll back the damage in the face of the inevitable backlash from international finance, the small coterie of Serious and Responsible people who decide which ideas are “realistic” and which are “lunatic,” and their amplifiers in the media?
I don’t want to sound facile, but doesn’t it come down to the kind of government we want and the kind of country we want to be? Do we want to be governed by the people we elect, or by a small global oligarchy of unaccountable string-pullers? And is the simple act of choosing a brand on polling day going to affect that?