Archive for April, 2010

Hold the Line

28/04/2010 Leave a comment

I’m going to start this post with a cheesy quote from a favourite TV show of mine.

Hold the line until the light,
Hold the line against the night.

-“The March of the High Guard”, from the show Andromeda

I will also say that I am a pacifist.

Within the context of this post, I interpret the quote as a call to “hold the line” against those who would strip people of their basic rights and freedoms. Freedoms and rights that we take for granted, like the right to an education (however reluctantly we accept it), or freedom of religion, or the right to a fair trial. It’s a call to fight for those freedoms until they are realized, and fight for those freedoms when they are threatened.

Specifically, I’m talking about Afghanistan. Simply put, we aren’t done there yet, and I believe the imminent recall of troops on active combat duty will prove disastrous for this war.

Perhaps I should qualify my previous statement – I’m a pacifist, but I also try to be practical in my beliefs. If we talked our problems out like rational creatures and lowered all our horrific ordinance for just a little bit, that would be a better world.

Unfortunately, violence is a useful tool. Some would rather take by force than compromise and negotiate. And on a world populated by human beings, an army is a necessity. Read more…


Home is Where the Heart Is

25/04/2010 Leave a comment

Well I guess this is it, Gardner. Less than one week left – my lease ends on Friday at noon. It’s been a fun ride. Always remember that Gardner creed: “It’s Better on Top”.

One exam left, and then I fly home on Sunday.

The upside of leaving Gardner is that I get to go home to Vancouver. I was talking to a friend of mine who is also from Van today at brunch and we both agreed that this year has made us realize that Vancouver, and BC in general, is home. Montréal is great and I really do love it, but the mountains, forests, and trees that I’ve become so accustomed to are sorely missing. I’m definitely a BCian.

West Coast for life, yo!



Um, Excuse Me?

19/04/2010 Leave a comment

I was relaxing in the sun by my bed in rez, reading Rick Mercer’s The Paperback Book (which is pissing funny, by the way), when I read this:

Basically, every member of Parliament in this country wants to go [to Afghanistan]. This is retail politics 101. You get off the plane, … you get your picture taken …, you come home, you get a bump in the polls.

It’s also why Stéphane Dion has been asking to go for a very long time. And this past week, the Tories finally said yes. So off Dion went. And boy did he make a balls of it.

The Tories, of course, loved [it], but while Dion might have put his foot in mouth, what the Tories did was far worse. When politicians visit Afghanistan, it’s always a secret. Those are the rules, written by the military. The military are very, very, touchy about this. they don’t want the Taliban to know when politicians are visiting because then they become a target. And shag the politicians; remember it’s the soldiers who are guarding the politicians you have to worry about.

So Dion, true to his word, never told a soul he was going. His staff didn’t even know he was going. [my emphasis] But the Tories, they said, “The hell with the military,” and they had a cabinet minister, Helena Guergis, release details of the visit. Sure, Canadian military lives were put at risk, but I guess that’s the price you have to pay when you’re facing re-election in Simcoe-Gray (Rick Mercer, The Paperback Book, 258-9).

(The rant is from 2005, in case you’re confused by the name “Dion”) I was really, really offended. The Conservatives took the low road here. They toyed with peoples’ lives for a stupid little political game. Not only that, they also sent a message that they’re completely fine with an opposition MP dieing because of them.

I’m sure even the Republicans wouldn’t pull a stunt like that. Not cool, Harper. Not cool at all.



The Gay Marriage “Debate”

17/04/2010 2 comments

I’ve thought for a good long while (read: as soon as I heard about the “debate”) that the answer was pretty obvious. First, what right does the government have to tell two consenting adults what they can or can’t do in the bedroom? Second, if two homosexual adults decide they would be much happier if they were married, what right does the government have to tell them “No, we think you wouldn’t be, so you can’t.”? To the extent of my knowledge, these are the arguments against gay marriage – often presented in a more sophisticated form, but these are the bones of said arguments:

  • If we let gays marry, there would be a fundamental breakdown of society. People would stop having kids because they’d be too busy screwing their own sex to procreate.

Because obviously, if we legalized marriage, there would be an epidemic of homosexuality. Joe the Plumber and Johnny Canuck the Lumberjack would marry and start getting it on. The only reason they’re straight is because they can’t marry other men.

From what I’ve read, people who identify as homosexual make up between one and two percent of the population of Canada; averages in other Western countries are similar. Who people can marry has no impact on how they identify in terms of sexuality.

  • Marriage is a religious institution, and by the holy texts of most religions, it can only involve one man and one woman.

Wrong – marriage is only sometimes a religious institution. You can be married by a Justice of the Peace; no holy figure necessary! Whether a faith will marry same-sex couples is up to it.

This one takes the cake – the same argument, in secular form.

  • The definition of marriage is one man and one woman. Therefore, no same-sex marriage.

No big deal – we’ll just call the editors of the dictionary.

A ridiculous debate, IMO. The only reason there is a debate is because religious people have conflated the notions of religion and marriage. Marriage can be a secular institution, too. There is no good argument against gay marriage. Period. End of story.



The Meaning of Life

17/04/2010 1 comment

What is the meaning of life? Today in the last lecture of my Philosophy class we talked a little bit about this.

It’s pretty clear that if there is any meaning to life, it has to come from us – facts about the universe such as God’s existence are distinctly unhelpful as we can’t ascertain their validity. So the universe doesn’t help us.

That would suggest, it seems, that the meaning of life is communal (coming from humanity as a whole).

Let’s approach this problem from a different angle: I think it can be taken as a given that to be truly happy, a life must also be meaningful. A meaningful life may not be happy (how happy was Nelson Mandela when he was in prison?), but a happy life is meaningful.

A study was done in the field of positive psychology, which deals with happiness, love and the like, that involved taking people and asking them to rate on a scale how happy they were. Next, their brains were scanned to see which areas were active. The conclusion was that there was a positive correlation between brain activity in one area and the reported degree of happiness.

Just for fun, the researcher called in one of his friends, a scientist-turned-Buddhist-monk. This man had been practising Buddhist compassion meditation for over 30 years, so he could just “turn it on” whenever he decided. They put the monk in the scanner, and asked him to do the compassion meditation – the resulting activity in the brain centre identified with happiness was off the charts.

This suggests a correlation between happiness and compassion/concern for others. As numerous studies on volunteer workers have shown, people who do volunteer work are generally happier than their counterparts.

Maybe the meaning of life is compassion. Is that really so hard to believe?



The Environmental Movement – Caught REDD-handed

17/04/2010 Leave a comment

Big environmental groups have been taking corporate money from Big Oil, Big Industry, and Big Coal. Groups such as the Sierra Club, Conservation International, and even Greenpeace (I’m not kidding around here!) have essentially become corporate PR firms. Disgusting.

Article found here, courtesy of AlterNet.