Pot calling kettle


 

 

 

On January 3, Iran summoned Canada’s envoy to Tehran to protest Canada’s “blatant violation of human rights.”, just days before our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper fired back with this bon mot, “Iran is the world’s most serious threat to international peace.”

This is not the first time Iran has held Canada up as being in severe and consistent violation of human rights. In September of 2007, they distributed an entire booklet detailing Canadian human rights violations. Some of the accusations in that 70 page booklet were, that Ottawa denies Canadians everything from clean water, the right to food and the right to work. Yes these charges were laid against CANADA!?

It seems that Iran has decided to make Canada a target every time the United Nations Human Rights Council is about to convene in order to take attention away from blatant and heinous violations of human rights in their own country.

The question I ask myself, is why Canada? Yes we hold ourselves up as a standard-bearer of human rights, but we, admittedly, are still a work in progress. We also hold ourselves up to scrutiny from the United Nations because we feel we have nothing to hide and actually want violations to be pointed out to us so we can correct them. I assume the reason to slam Canada is to point out hypocrisy in our stance and therefore make the point that human rights violations occur everywhere so why is Iran singled out and berated for this so-called crime? There’s another answer to the why Canada question. Oil. We are also an oil selling nation and, therefore, competition.

Back in 2007, there were several other countries that sided with Iran and their booklet. Predictably, they were countries who were also some of the world’s worst violators.

This begs another question. Why is it that every country in the world is not striving to make sure that all human beings are granted basic human rights? Morally, this seems to be an obvious thing to do. Is it greed? (that’s very likely a big part of it) Is it fear? (fear of allowing the oppressed freedom, then having to face retribution from them) Is it religion? (or is that just the excuse they cloak the greed and fear in?)

In my opinion it’s the simple belief that the rich cannot exist without the poor. But must the poor need to suffer beating, rape, torture and humiliation so that the rich can be rich? The answer is a resounding NO. Rich and poor are relative terms. Just how poor do the poor have to be in order to make a rich man feel rich?

Canada is considered a medium income inequality country. We have the lowest income inequality in that category. (though the gap is growing) Canada is a country that still has a middle class. A country where the average person without a university education can still make a comfortable living and have a good quality of life. Yes, we have poor people, but as a socialist country, we have a huge amount of programs in place to help with housing, food and employment. We are also a country that provides welfare for those who need it. Are we a perfect country, no, that doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to improve.

So instead of bashing Canada on the world stage, perhaps Iran should focus on improving its own reputation.

Are we married or aren’t we?


 

 

 

 

Yesterday the news that gay marriages performed in Canada to couples who don’t live here may not be valid, swept the internet news sites and the blogosphere alike. As a Canadian and a supporter of gay marriage, the news made me a little sick to my stomach. This was the first article I saw on the story. In the last paragraph, the article quotes family law attorney Andrew Feldstein, of Toronto, as saying, “Where the Harper government should have approached this is: you are not a resident of Canada, you are not a taxpayer in Canada, why should we be using the court’s time, money, resources, taxpayers dollars for people who don’t live in Canada?”

My response to this comment is, it’s not taxpayers who pay for divorce proceedings, it’s the couple in question. Is Canada now so allergic to money that we will decline it just because it comes from another country… or is this a gay issue? Is gay money somehow not worth as much as straight money? And what about all the tourist dollars we get from the gay couples from all over the world who come here to get married, some with an entire wedding party in tow? Are we, as a country really in a position, in this economy to turn away revenue? I am purposefully responding to this topic from a financial view-point because that’s the only thing that lawyers and politicians seem to respect and understand. Financially, this just doesn’t make sense.

What about Canada’s reputation as a tolerant country? We are a country that famously touts our multicultural  status as something to be proud of… and it is. We are ahead of the curve when it comes to Human Rights… but Gay Rights ARE Human Rights.

One month ago, almost to the day, former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien posted a letter to the Liberal party website. In it he said, “The Conservatives already ended gun control and Kyoto. Next may be a woman’s right to choose, or gay marriage. Then might come capital punishment. And one by one, the values we cherish as Canadians will be gone.” Did he know something the rest of us didn’t? Of course the liberals are jumping all over this hot button issue. Interim liberal leader Bob Rae was quoted as saying. “It’s quite clear that we have enabled and allowed people to come to Canada to marry in Montreal, in Toronto and everywhere in the country. People came from the U.S. and elsewhere and that means very clearly they have the right to marry and have the right to divorce,” and he’s right.

Just one day later, the Federal Government has decided to change the law.

“We want to make it very clear that in our government’s view, these marriages should be valid,” a senior government official said on Friday. “That’s why we will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada.”

This is fantastic news and I’m sure it will be implemented quickly so as to nip this scandal in the bud.

I must admit I’m a little confused by something. Using the United States as an example, what about gay couples who marry in Vermont, but live in Florida? Their marriage isn’t recognized in the state they live in, so if one partner is in the hospital, for example, the other isn’t considered a family member, regardless of the marriage licence issued by Vermont. If this hypothetical couple wants to divorce, doesn’t the same problem rear its ugly head? Are they only married in Vermont and the other 5 states that allow gay marriage, but not married in the other 44 states that don’t?

It’s questions like these that I hope the GLBTQIA community south of the border is asking itself. I sincerely hope that this issue spurs more activism in the United States and around the world.

 

My favourite feminists


Last night I finally watched the HBO documentary, Gloria, In Her Own Words for the first time. It was informative, funny, touching and inspiring and it set me to thinking about feminism and who were some of the women who helped shape my view of it.

I know we owe a great debt to, what is now termed the first wave of feminism. Women like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Astell, Catharine Beecher, Fredrika Bremer and Simone de Beauvoir. However, just like in my last post about atheists, I wanted to keep my choices contained to women who are still alive and contributing to the conversation.

GLORIA STEINEM

“If you say, I’m for equal pay, that’s a reform. But if you say. I’m a feminist, that’s a transformation of society.”

A woman who’s name is synonymous with the word feminist. Ms. Steinem is the co-founder of MS. Magazine as well as a key player in feminism’s second wave, starting in the 1960’s. As a journalist and activist, Ms. Steinem  has helped to change the way North American women are treated in society. She continues to fight for women’s rights worldwide to this day. In her words, it all starts with an outrageous act.

ANGELA DAVIS

“To understand how any society functions you must understand the relationship between the men and the women.”

While she may be primarily known for her work in the civil rights movement, make no mistake about it, Angela Davis was, is and always will be a feminist. She was the first woman to run for Vice president of the United States, in 1980 and again in 1984 (on the communist party USA ticket). Ms. Davis is the former director of the feminist studies department at the University Of California, Santa Cruz. Her tireless efforts for the cause of human rights in all forms shows no signs of slowing down. Here she is talking with another pioneer of the civil rights movement, Yuri Kochiyama.

GERMAINE GREER

“All societies on the verge of death are masculine. A society can survive with only one man; no society will survive a shortage of women.”

Australian author of the Female Eunich, Germaine Greer is widely regarded as one of the most significant voices of feminism’s second wave. She is a self described anarchist and wonderfully opinionated feminist as you will see in the two clips below. I’ve included a clip from 1971 and one from 2010 where she is being interviewed by two different men in order to illustrate just how much male hostility still lingers. Both interviewers employ various tactics in order to belittle her and her ideas.

CAMILLE PAGLIA 

“If you live in rock and roll, as I do, you see the reality of sex, of male lust and women being aroused by male lust. It attracts women. It doesn’t repel them.”

Her brand of feminism started as a backlash to what she was seeing as a puritanical viewpoint. Ms. Paglia is a self professed sex positive feminist. A feminist who believes that women need not blame men, but take responsibility for their own lot in life and depend on themselves to better it. As an author,teacher and social critic, Ms. Paglia’s feminist view was a kick in the proverbial pants to what feminism was becoming at the time. Always controversial, Camille Paglia never fails to tell it like it is.

These are some of the women who’s ideas about what it means it be a feminist helped me come to my own understanding of the word and the movement. It’s because of these women that I realize just how important it is to keep feminism moving forward into generations to come. With that in mind, I encourage young women to get involved in Women’s Rights, because that’s what feminism is, making sure women worldwide have the same rights as men.

If you are looking for a role model that you can relate to, may I suggest this next young woman.

REBECCA WALKER

“One may be nice on the outside but on the inside isnt pretty”

The daughter of Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple), Rebecca Walker is an author and a pioneer in feminism’s Third Wave and has been named by Time magazine as one of the 50 future leaders of America.

I’d like to leave you with a video produced by an organization called The Feminist Majority that I found inspiring. If you want to get involved in the fight for Women’s Rights, their website is a good place to start. http://www.feminist.org/

Atheists I admire


The common thread in all of my choices here is intellectual bravery. All of these people are not afraid to speak their mind, come what may. All of these people are highly intelligent and witty in their own right.

JULIA SWEENEY

Ms. Sweeney is an American actress and comedian, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live. She is also a very brave woman, as a cancer survivor and outspoken atheist. She is one of those atheists who has read the bible, cover to cover. The way she is able to relate her experiences with humour and humanity is inspiring. Below is a clip from her must see special, Letting go of God where she talks about her reaction to the Bible chapter, Revelations.

EDDIE IZZARD

A British actor and comedian, Mr. Izzard is also famous for being a transvestite (an action transvestite), which, in my book makes him even more courageous. Another outspoken atheist, his comedy, or the best history lesson ever, as I like to call it, often touches on the nonsensical parts of religion, as illustrated in the clip below.

RICKY GERVAIS

Yet, another actor and comedian from Britain, Mr. Gervais is not afraid to defend his lack of belief in any forum. As one of his Twitter followers, I’ve seen him seemingly revel in putting religious fanatics in their place. His comedy is not only hilarious, but manages to make you look at things in a way you never would have without his perspective. Here he talks about Noah’s Ark.

Before you think this is all about comedians, here come the scientists…

SAM HARRIS

American author, neuroscientist, and founder/CEO of Project Reason, Sam Harris is and incredibly well spoken atheist. Logic is his art form and he is a master. It may be seen by some as less courageous for a scientist to openly proclaim his disbelief in religion. In Mr. Harris’s case, he lives in the United States, home of Christian zealotry and death threats and fearlessly speaks on morally controversial topics like this one in the clip below.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Mr. Tyson is also a very outspoken atheist. He is brilliant at explaining otherwise mind boggling scientific  theories so even the layperson can instantly grasp them. Here he talks about what he calls Stupid Design.

RICHARD DAWKINS

A British author and evolutionary biologist. Arguably his most famous book is The God Delusion, which contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion. An extraordinary mind, Mr. Dawkins is quite possibly the world’s most famous atheist. Here he eloquently talks about creationism, evolution and religion.

These are all living human beings who have much to teach us, whether it’s through laughter or science. For those of you thinking that I missed George Carlin or Charles Darwin, I didn’t. I just wanted to include people who are currently contributing to the conversation. I acknowledge that these people are standing on the shoulders of the atheists who came before them, just as future atheists will stand on the shoulders of these people and so on until we reach heaven ;)

Are you the next or the first?


For the past two days the lead story on Yahoo Canada’s home page has been ‘Angelina Jolie lookalike stuns’. It’s about, as one would assume an aspiring actress who bears a resemblance to Angelina Jolie. I pity this girl. She will never do anything without being compared to a much more famous and established actress. And how insulting to Angelina Jolie, who isn’t finished being the first Angelina Jolie.

I don’t understand this fascination the media has with saying she’s the next, or he’s the next. It’s not just the entertainment industry either, politics does this as well. Someone is always the next Reagan or JFK. Does the big spin machine really think that the general public is so daft that we need to see a similarity to an iconic figure of the past in a rising star in order to accept them?

Keira Knightley and Audrey Tautou were being billed as the next Audrey Hepburn. Nicole Kidman, Lindsay Lohan, Pam Anderson, Madonna and Kim Kardashian (really?) were all said to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Tom Hanks was being touted as the next Jimmy Stewart and already they’re asking who will be the next Tom Hanks.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean this is coming from an industry that remakes a movie that is only two years old (the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) because apparently American audiences are too lazy to read subtitles. Director Gus Van Sant’s creative tank was so empty that he actually made a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic movie Psycho. Even though the experiment failed miserably, as most remakes do, Hollywood just won’t give up on the idea… and then they wonder why nobody goes to the movies anymore. Audiences are clamouring for something original, which is why a black and white, silent film is one of the most talked about movies of 2011. You’d think Hollywood would get the message, but instead they have this in the works. I pity the actor charged with recreating a career defining role like Patrick Bateman. I can’t imagine any of the new crop of Twilight or Disney stars doing the role anywhere near the same justice as Christian Bale did it only a scant 12 years ago.

For those of you looking to make your mark on the world, please ask yourself one question. Why would you want to be the next someone else, when you can be the first you?

Funny or Insulting, the Stephen Hawking interview


This week, perhaps the most brilliant mind of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking gave a short interview to New Scientist magazine. See the interview here  In it he talks about String Theory (or M Theory), the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), quantum gravity and his thoughts on black holes. The last question of the interview was “What do you think most about during the day?” Professor Hawking’s response was, “Women. They are a complete mystery.”

Every online news outlet picked up this story and gave it headlines like, Women are a mystery to British physicist Hawking and What mystifies Dr. Hawking? Women. Now I understand that news outlets have to create the most interesting headline in order to get the most jaded of us to read the story, so I really don’t blame them for taking the answer to that last question and turning it into a headline. That being said, his response reads to me as a cute, funny reply. Likely meant as a joke. Dare I say HOPEFULLY meant as a joke.

If it wasn’t a joke, the implication here is, the smartest of men is still stymied by women, so what hope does the rest of the male population have in figuring them out. Even if it was a joke, the same implication is there. Women are a mystery so impossible that no man will ever solve them… so why bother trying?

This implication is insulting because it diminishes women as a gender. It’s akin to saying, “Don’t worry your pretty little head”  or “Shhh, men are speaking.”

Let me give you a small bit of wisdom, men. I’d ask if you were listening, but we know that not listening is the problem. If you really want to figure out and solve women, all you have to do is LISTEN TO US. Let me go one further, listen and really HEAR what we are saying. I know that this seems like a lot of effort when you could just build cities, fast cars with cool technology, explore the earth, explore space and spend your time thinking up new and clever pick up lines to impress us. Women are always saying they want a man who is a good listener, yet all men hear when we speak is their own voice, saying ‘I hope she shuts up soon so I can get some food/sex/sleep’. How many fights do you have with your partner where she says, “YOU NEVER LISTEN”? You expect women to listen so closely to you that we can read your minds and cater to your every whim and you can’t afford us the same respect? Understanding that women are PEOPLE same as you, and not a Rubik’s cube to be solved will go a long way in achieving a peaceful end to the battle of the sexes.

So until men get the message, I guess women will remain the world’s most unsolvable puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in the arrogance of men.

Marriage is for Men


 

It seems there’s been a rash of celebrity engagements this past couple of weeks. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Mario Lopez, John Legend and even Aretha Franklin all announced engagements. Even Sinead O’Conner is staying married, after announcing a split. With all of this attention put on marriage, I thought I’d take a look at who really benefits in a traditional marriage.

The institution of marriage predates reliable recorded history. It was the norm for all marriage to be arranged, sometimes at birth. The parents would pick a spouse based on purely economic factors. Families joining to become financially and socially stronger. Whether the groom’s family paid a bride price, or dower, or the bride’s family paid a dowry, the melding of families was very much for power and economic reasons and had nothing to do with love. It was a purely secular union put in place to help each family move up in society. Brides wed out of obligation and duty and were expected to be virtuous and faithful to their husbands, who, in turn were expected to provide financially for their wife and children. However, sexual monogamy was never expected for the husband. It was assumed that his sexual needs would be met both inside and outside the marriage bed. Great deal for him, but what about her?

These women went directly from their father’s home to their husband’s home and were expected to be obedient in both surroundings. They never enjoyed the luxury of personal freedom and exploration. Even in North America, women weren’t able of choose to be single without fear of societal backlash until the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. Women were expected to subjugate their personalities in favour of the path their husband chose… even when marrying for love. It was 2006 when the Church of England officially took the word OBEY out of the marriage vows. Yes, women were expected to OBEY their husbands. That one four letter word gave men all the justification they needed to abuse their wives for centuries.

In the 1960’s women in western civilizations seemed to have had enough. There was an uprising of women who were demanding their human rights. The right to choose what to do with their own life. It sure took us long enough, but once we started tasting freedom, it became more and more widespread. The church was still doing everything in its power to keep us barefoot and pregnant, from not allowing birth control use and abortion to shoving the institution of marriage down our throats at every opportunity.

There was a perceived danger in women choosing to be single. The erosion of the family unit. Traditionally, parents would take care of their family, then later in life, the family of their children would take care of the parents. If a woman chose to be single, how could she possibly afford to take care of her parents in their declining years? Would she even want to? If she is choosing freedom, what does obligation even mean to her? These were some of the questions at the root of society’s fear of the Women’s Movement.

Indeed marriage rates did decline and divorce rates went way up.  Men went from “Honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner?” to wondering when the delivery guy was coming. Something else of importance  happened during this time. In 1965, in the United States, medicare and medicaid became available. This took away the need for children to take care of their elder parents. This changed the economic family dynamic.

Unfortunately,  there was a backlash to the feminist movement. It seemed to create a generation of men with severe Peter Pan syndrome. These adult men, not only want their wife to be a partner, but also a mother. It seems that these liberated feminist mothers didn’t think to teach their sons how to be liberated, strong men. This, along with the media (magazines, movies etc.) telling women that they are not complete without a man, created a surge in marriages. .. marriages that didn’t last. After all, what liberated woman wants to be mean mommy to her husband? And let’s face it no man (unless it’s his fetish) wants to have sex with mean mommy.

Women who choose to be single, have reproductive freedom like never before. Now medical science has made it possible for women to have babies without benefit of marriage, or even a relationship. It’s easy to understand why there are so many heterosexual men out there who seem to genuinely hate women. They fear they are being rendered obsolete, and that is a legitimate fear. Successful women are choosing to be single mothers.

As Gloria Steinem once said, “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”

Yes traditional marriage was great for men. They had a subservient wife who took care of hearth and home, their every need and want, with no expectation of sexual fidelity. The pendulum travelling inexorably to the other side now. Even in the non western world we are seeing another women’s revolution. Here in the west, there are women who choose marriage just to have a companion, knowing full well that it can be as permanent as they want it to be.

This attitude has spawned another type of man. I have seen it in generations Y and Z. This young man is looking to be kept. They are male gold diggers, looking for an older, successful woman to marry.

I suppose marriage hasn’t changed that much after all. After a brief flirtation with love, it’s still all about money and power.