Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Racism in Canada/Racism in the US

[NOTE: I began this story a while ago, but never got around to finishing it.]

Yesterday, while so many were focused on the racist slayings in the states, hundreds of First Nations members gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to hear an apology for the 60's scoop, with many tearful stories being told. I saw very little of that on my timeline. Isn't this a sort of racism? Being more focused on race relations in another country than race relations in our own?

It isn't that I am calling everyone a racist. I don't think anyone posting is. I think they are all concerned about an important issue. But, I do find it interesting how we, in Canada, in general, are more tuned in to race relations in the US, and seem to feel more outrage over it, then race relations here in Canada. I wouldn't even blame the media. One of the problems is that so much of our news sources are from the US. So, we get far more info about the US than Canada. But the CBC covered the 60's scoop extensively. Unfortunately, I think more Canadians will watch CNN over CBC. Why?

It just appears that, in Canada, we are a bit clued out to the realities that face First Nations people here, and are more tuned in with the injustices happening to groups other places in the world. We need to change this. There are people struggling right here in Canada. Colonization has not been kind to them. They have suffered and continue to suffer under our noses. And yet we ignore it. Is it harder to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what has happened here than to look at what is going on elsewhere and condemn it? That could be part of it. Is US news that much more dramatic and attention getting? Possibly.

We have to stop stumbling around blind about the realities that face First Nations people within our own borders. We need to pay attention to the news here, see the blatant racism and the abuse and start acting on it. We need to look at ourselves. It's not that we should ignore the rest of the world. We just have to include us into the greater picture.




Kissed CBC Reporter Pissed: Megan Batchelor VS Daniel Davis

[Note: I began this post quite a while ago and didn't get around to posting it. So, the story is a tad old now.]

CBC Reporter Megan Batchelor was kissed on the cheek by a jubilant young dude named Daniel Davis at the Squamish Valley Music Festival while she was on air. The reporter went to the RCMP to file a complaint against Davis. Davis has apologized, the reporter seems satisfied, and the case has been dropped.

Now, let me say this. Yes, consent is important. Yes, sexual aggression and violence is bad. Yes, unwanted advances are bad. Yes, Davis shouldn't have done what he did. Yes, the reporter was well within her rights to go to the police. Yes, her feelings should not be diminished in any way and the matter should be taken serious. Yes, we must respect other people and their personal space. Yes, women must have the absolute right to stand up for themselves and fight against unwanted attention.

BUT....

What if?

See, when I look at the video of the event, this is what I see: A teenage boy who is excited, happy and having fun at a summer time music festival. His jubilant mood spilled over and he planted a kiss on the cheek of the reporter.

Now, the reporter took this VERY harshly. She was not impressed. Okay. BUT, what are we doing to ourselves as a culture...as a society? Are we now in a state where we aren't allowing ourselves to enjoy the full range of experiences, emotions and feelings that makes us human? Are we starting to put ourselves in bubbles? Are we starting to want to protect ourselves from just too darn much? What happened to the idea of spontaneity in human interaction?  Does an unsolicited kiss on the cheek really have to be met with such an angry backlash? Does it really have to be something that is taken to the police? Or, is it something that can be experienced as a human? Has this reporter decided to cut her off from a world of experiences?

Obviously, saying that people should just run around kissing anyone they see for whatever reason they want is illogical. Again, she did nothing wrong by going to the police. She was well within her rights to feel the way she did. Her feelings should not be dismissed.

But, and I keep going back to the but, what if? What if us humans stopped being so angry with each other and started to enjoy some of these spontaneous outbursts that come with being human? What if we accepted that sometimes we can't control everything, that our personal space might be intruded on, that things are going to happen to us....and that might just be a-okay? That this is what it's like to be human? And these experiences are important for us all to have? And we can choose how we are going to react? Are we going to stick ourselves into bubbles....or are we going to go with the flow? Obviously, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. We need to protect ourselves from dangers...but do we need to protect ourselves from EVERYTHING. What if we let our guard down a bit and allowed ourselves to experience what the world has to offer as opposed to being hostile to it?

Obviously, this is a highly sensitive topic. When I have tried to discuss it, I definitely feel as though I am the bad guy for not outright condemning the actions of Daniel Davis and appearing to not support Megan Batchelor. There are those that feel that Daniel Davis deserves to be absolutely skewered, shamed, arrested, tarred and feathered and whatever else that can possibly be done. And this warrants another question. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is what he did so bad, so awful, so horrible that it warrants the response from people that has been given? Is the punishment fitting the crime? Or is the punishment going way, way beyond where it needs to be? How is this determined? I think some critics of the reporter going to the police feel that it was a bit overboard and the punishment didn't fit the crime. It's a fair question to ask, and I don't think there is anything wrong with asking it.

Now, since I wrote this, the two parties declared a truce. Daniel Davis apologized. The police aren't pursuing any charges. Everything is settled and no one has discussed it since. But, it is still on my mind, which is why I decided to post this, even if it is a tad on the old side. And, again, I am not fully coming out swinging for Daniel Dais and I am not condemning Megan Batchelor in any way. She did what she did. I just see it as an opportunity to question a few things, and I did.






Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why Pressure on Mo Ansar is Important.

I promise, this will be my last Mo Ansar post for a while. Honestly, he is one of my favourite subjects, because I find him so bizarrely fascinating. Here is an absolute fraud (documented over and over), who has invented a persona, trying to worm his way into being some grand community leader for Muslims, wanting his face on any TV screen he can find, screaming "ISLAMOPHOBIA!!!!!" all along the way.

I'm tired of professional victims like Mo. You want to know why there might be tensions between communities? Look no farther than Mo. While he talks about unity and diversity, he also calls almost anyone he can "Islamophobic". He is obsessed with Islamophobia to the point where he has rendered the term pretty much useless, although it was never a good term to begin with. And, the fact that he is doing this while being a complete fraud is a bit too much to bear.

So, why should people keep pressuring Mo? I don't see all of those who tweet about Mo as being trolls (twitter is Mo's main platform above any other for spreading the word of Mo, and he has a good amount of critics who keep on top of him). Some are. But, as someone who has decided he wants to thrust himself into the public eye with such vim and vigour, he has now put himself into a position where he must be held accountable for what he does and says. He wanted his position, and now he must deal with his position.

Like much of what he does, he wants the glory but not have to actually work for it. Defending ones statements in a logical, reasoned way, being held accountable for wrong doings and fraudulent statements, etc goes part in parcel with wanting the fame and recognition. And he definitely fails on this end, acting like a child in the face of criticism as opposed to handling it with any amount of grace and dignity. He cannot handle the criticism or the being held to accountability. That is not Mo's thing. Mo can only handle praise and agreement with him. He can't handle disagreement or criticism.

People like Jeremy Duns have done an excellent job in his criticizing of Mo (perfect example, right here in his blog post) and holding him to a level of account, despite the fact Mo refuses to be held accountable for being the fraud he is. And this pressure is valuable. It is important to have a counter voice to Mo's, someone who is in tune with Mo's ways and can provide the information that Mo leaves out, or completely distorts.

A public figure of any sort needs to be held accountable. If a guy wants to parade himself around as some kind of a noble, wise community leader, wants to be on national television, radio and in newspapers, dispensing his views which usually involve him telling everyone how Islamophobic they are, how horrible Britain and the US are for almost everything, saying that Muslims were in America 500 years before Columbus, trying to represent a religion with a self appointed voice of authority, etc, then this man MUST be held accountable. It is not a matter of should he or shouldn't he. It is a matter of must be. No matter how much he would like his critics to go away, not only won't they, but they must not go away. They must keep on him. They must counter him. They must continue to hold him accountable for his statements and actions. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Did Tesco Destroy Ramadan?

There appears to be a kerfuffle going on in the UK, although it is a low level one, where a customer spotted Smokey Bacon Pringles on a Ramadan Mubarak promotional display case in a Tesco store.

Now, the retailer has assured that the misplaced Pringles are now off of the display. But some people seem angry that Tesco would screw up so badly and promote Smokey Bacon Pringles as a Ramadan treat! This despite the fact there is no actual bacon in them. Perfectly halal. But, of course, it's the idea that matters.

Anyway, it would appear that the offending tubes of chips were found on the top shelf of the display. From the picture it appears that only about 5 or 6 tubes are there. So, I'm guessing this was a cheeky customer playing a prank as opposed to a major marketing error by Tesco. Yet, some of the news outlets that have reported it have made it out to sound like Tesco was deliberately marketing these deliciously bacony snacks directly to people who generally stay clear of bacon.

Well, the display stand used was provided by Pringles themselves and had a Ramadan Mubarak logo on it (the tubes of Pringles themselves did NOT). Now, it could have been an error by someone in the store, indeed, placing the wrong snacks on the display. But most likely it seems someone was probably playing a joke. It does not appear that Tesco OR Pringles OR anyone else is actually marketing Smokey Bacon Pringles to Muslims. But I guess trumping it up as a case of Tesco purposely wanting Muslims to buy Smokey Bacon Pringles makes it sound far more scandalous than it actually is.

Of course, this is all speculation. They haven't said that they are the ones who set it up as a marketing scheme. They admitted the Pringles were in the wrong place and fixed it. Of course Tesco isn't going to say "Some damn punk kids were playin' around with the Pringles again!". They fixed it, story over really. And no, I would say the number of people truly upset about this is low. And it is just a funny story. In fact, it's darn funny, if you really think about it. Delicious Smokey Bacon Pringles on a Ramadan display? HAHAHA! Oh, the hilarity! No? But, of course, the problem is, it now has me craving Smokey Bacon Pringles. Excuse me while I run to the store...and Ramadan Mubarak!

UPDATE:

I KNEW I should have checked in with my all time favourite Muslim commentator, Mo Ansar, on this! Of course he would have something to say about it. And boy, did he.


Wow, he's really gone overboard on this issue. What was most likely a bit of prank by someone has got Mo saying that there is some kind of massive systematic failure (what system, I don't know), and to make it worse, he uses the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, almost as if he is equating this rather humourous display with the killing of innocent unarmed African-American's in the US. He's gone over the top on this one! Who knew that Smokey Bacon Pringles placed on a display stand was that heinous of a crime? You would have to be a Mo Ansar to see it this way. I'm sure if it was up to Mo, and it was the type of society he would want it to be, he would have someone's hand chopped off for this. After all, he doesn't seem interested in condemning the cutting off of limbs as punishment...)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rachel Dolezal and Mo Ansar: Two Peas in a Pod?

Ahhhh, Rachel Dolezal. What have you done? It has become big news that the leader of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington has been pretending to be "black" for something like 20 years. I'm not sure how one pretends to be black, or how an obviously white person can manage to pass as being black, but, who am I to question. Regardless, what she appears to have done is to create a complete fantasy world for herself. She has made up a persona and put herself out there as a great activist using this persona. Sound familiar?

To me, it sure does! The first person I thought of is, of course, my favourite persona inventor and outright liar, Mo Ansar. I have written about ol' Mo in the past. He is a character that I find most fascinating and can't help return to. One reason he is so fascinating is because of the fact that he is a fraudulent creation of his own mind, which is bizarre on many levels. Even when I look at Rachel Dolezal, I see a person who has done a lot of good in her role as a black women, despite the fact that she lied about being a black women. I cannot say the same about Mo Ansar, although he insists that he is doing great work as an activist and community leader.



So, what is at play with both of these people? Narcissism? Confusion? A pathological need to lie? A desire to be something that you aren't? Why would people such as these create these identities for themselves? It is bizarre. There is such a strong desire to be something, to connect with something that they are willing to pretend to be anything to make that connection. For Mo, becoming the Mo Ansar we know has definitely been done to get onto TV, get fame, get recognition, to have a community rally behind him. Is this what Rachel did as well? What was she hoping to achieve? And was it really worth it? In the end, it all appears to be crashing down and unravelling before her just as it did when Mo Ansar was exposed by so many journalists, writers and researchers. Mo has struggled to make his way back, trying to worm his way into any little crevice he can to regain his low level glory. Will we see Rachel do this as well? Or will she be content with letting this go now? Will she learn the lesson, reevaluate and come clean? Or will she continue to try to lie to everyone...including, most importantly, herself?

This is something that Mo failed to do. Even when being completely outed as a fraud, he could not come clean. He continued to lie and deceive and hasn't stopped to this day. He refuses to fess up and he refuses to learn, and then pretends to be a pious Muslim on top of that. He makes a mockery out of his own religion, attacks atheists and any one who he deems Islamophobic and just generally pisses people off. In that way, his persona is quite dangerous and is a black eye on activism. Now it's Rachel's turn. What route will she take? Will she come clean? Will she open up and work on her honesty? We can only hope.

Rachel Dolezal might be excellent in her work, unlike Mo Ansar. And if she is, I hope that she can continue doing good for people despite her lies. But if she can't be open and honest about who she is, her intentions, her goals, etc, then she stands no chance. She will continue to be dogged, not by anyone else, but by her own recklessness.

UPDATE:

Since writing this, Rachel Dolezal has only made things worse for herself by continuing to lie, continuing to insist that she "identifies" as black, etc. She has resigned from the NAACP. But she is still defiant. She isn't helping herself, that's for sure.

Likewise, interactions with Mo's sock puppet's online only further muddy his waters as he continues to try and deflect, distract and dismiss the fact that he has been lying for years and is a fraud. He refuses to budge on the issue and attacks anyone who points out the truth. He seems to feel his being silenced in a McCarthy-esque way, playing the victim in all of this as usual, as opposed to the perpetrator of lies and fraudulent behaviour.

The arrogance of these two individuals make them liabilities to the causes they supposedly fight for. To continue to lie makes no sense, and only destroys what credibility they might have even further, yet neither seem to see this. How arrogant can you get? Or have they just brainwashed themselves to believe they are who they are, and instead of admitting their wrongs, they continue to pretend they are some kind of victim in this, as if they are martyrs to the cause. They are so dedicated to wanting to be victims that they will do anything to try and make themselves out to be victims.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Screw your identity politics

Look, you wish to play the identity politics game. Fine. Go ahead. You can define yourself anyway you want. You can have a string of a thousand identities that put you in a little niche all to your own, a million miles from anywhere else. Not a problem. Enjoy that. In fact, heck, I support you. You can do whatever you want with your identity. You can call yourself or identify yourself in any way, shape or form that you wish! Go nuts! Have a ball!

But, whatever you do, do NOT get me involved in your little identity politics games. I do not wish to play identity politics. You don't get to determine what my identity is, thank you very much. No matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you want to try, the reality is my identity is mine, and I define who I am, not YOU. Keep your identity politics to yourself. I will not be defined by my gender, sexuality, colour of my skin, etc. I am who I am, and I will define who I am. You don't have that privilege. You can define who YOU are, and that is all. Period.

Do you have a problem with that? Oh well, I am not really concerned about that. I'm not concerned because by wanting to play identity politics with me and define me in ways that you see fit in order to fulfil an agenda or to create a narrative that I most likely have nothing to do with anyway, you aren't actually concerned with me. You are concerned with YOU. It is YOUR game, not mine. It is your wish to play identity politics, not mine.

Most likely, I don't fit into the little stereotypes that you have of me based on the identity or identities you want to stick on me anyway, so just stop. Stop right now before you even think of defining me. Go ahead, get all pretentious, tell me how privileged I am and no matter how I wish to identify myself, I am still what you identify me as. It doesn't change the fact that it is not up to you to define me. It is none of your business who I am, and I am not what you want to tell me I am.

Have we got this all straight now? My identity is determined by me, not you, but me and ONLY me. Okay, good. We can now move on. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll: Black Pussy, World's Most Dangerous Band

My last blog post about the band Black Pussy was a tongue in cheek roasting of what I see is a complete over reaction that the bands name has spawned. Here in Winnipeg, "activists" upset about the name have threatened to boycott The Pyramid Cabaret, the venue hosting the band. The anger that has been shown by some has left me puzzled, and frustrated. And, the band has released a statement addressing the controversy......HERE.

The idea of free speech and it's limits has been something that has fascinated me in the last few years. In a world where cartoonists and bloggers are slaughtered over material that is perceived to be offensive, freedom of speech is once again becoming almost an act of dissent, so protecting as much of our freedom of speech as possible is important, although considerations do have to be made on how we are going to deal with the most offensive and dangerous speech in our society.

Now, those who oppose Black Pussy more than don't like the name. They say the name is outright oppressive, especially towards women of colour. At least that's what the white women and men who have taken up this struggle are insisting. Speaking for women of colour seems to be the cool thing to do. And yes, okay, fine, I can see how the name might be perceived as offensive and in no way am I going to say that someone shouldn't find it offensive. If you find it offensive, you find it offensive. But, when I hear people say that the name is oppressive, that it creates an unsafe environment for women, that it contributes to rape culture, further marginalizes a marginalized group, etc, I think to myself, "REALLY?? You have managed to get all of that out the name Black Pussy??" Again, I'm not arguing. If that's how one wants to perceive it, sure. I guess. But, it seems to me that some are giving an awful lot of power to this name.

The way some are talking, this truly is the most dangerous band in the world. And this is why the Pyramid Cabaret, apparently, made a HUGE mistake in booking them and should cancel the show and repent for being so sinful. By booking them, they will have created an unsafe environment that some will never be able to go to again. Wow. That's, ya, that's intense. It's also bizarre given the acts that have played in the past at the Pyramid.

Xzibit, Necro, Ghostface Killah, Twiztid, Mad Child, Winnipeg's Most, Onyx, etc, have all taken the stage at the Pyramid. For frick sakes, these guys redefine misogyny, sexism and violence towards women! I mean, come ON! And yet, not a word about these artists. Not a word. There was not one protest to my knowledge about any of these artists being there. Compared to these folks, Black Pussy is TAME. If anyone went into the Pyramid after these guys played and saw it as a safe environment, then the least of your concerns should be a band called Black Pussy. This is why I feel that the outrage over this band is complete disproportionate to the "crime" they have committed, and that there is a certain level of hypocrisy in those who say they want Black Pussy banned to maintain a safe environment, while never mentioning these previous artists. It boggles my mind. It seems to me that if Black Pussy named themselves Love Puppies, and then got on stage and sang about murdering women (like Necro does, and Mad Child does in one of his videos) it would be more acceptable and receive no protests. That's the message I am getting here at least.

I'm not saying the name doesn't offend. I guess after seeing hundreds of bands for 25 years now, I've seen and heard so much more offensive stuff that to me this name seems so tame. I'm not saying people should not be offended. But I am saying that, when I look at the offence and the vitriolic response, I shake my head. As someone mentioned, "Well, it has started a decent debate and we are talking about the name." That's true. Can't argue with that. Well, to a degree. I mean, there has been no shortage of back and forth about it, but has it really been a debate? Based on what I see, it's one side calling anyone who doesn't denounce the name outright and back a boycott racist, sexist assholes. That isn't debate. That isn't being open to discussion. That is dictating how all others should feel about the name. That doesn't leave room for a debate or discussion in the slightest. But, the fact that the racial and sexual undertones of the band name are being discussed in an open way can be seen as positive, yes.

What worries me is this: What band will be next? I like a ton of music. And there are bands that I like that have themes, ideas, words, etc that in many ways, when I look at them, arguments about "safe spaces" and feeling threatened and oppressed by some of the content of this music could be levelled against them as well. For example, the Supersuckers, a band that comes to the Pyramid regularly. I mean, they are a sex, drugs and rock and roll band. They are not over the top, but there are definitely lyrics and ideas that can be scrutinized. Will they be the next band on the chopping block? Who will be? Who will be targeted next? How clean do those opposed to Black Pussy want to scrub this venue? How safe do they want it to be? And what will happen to all those other artists that I mentioned above? How on earth can a venue justify banning Black Pussy but then allowing an artist like, say, Mad Child who also plays at the Pyramid regularly, when he has a video featuring him killing prostitutes in a brothel? It would be the height of hypocrisy for both the venue to host him AND those opposing to the name Black Pussy to allow this guy to play again. This guy makes Black Pussy look tame.

As I write this, the Pyramid is contemplating how they will handle this controversy and plan to address it soon. It will be interesting to see what they plan to do, and how this will impact events at the venue in the future. In many ways, they can't win. If they don't cancel, they will have many upset people being very upset as upset people can be. I won't say ALL of their reasoning for being upset or offended are false or wrong. Like I said, if someone wants to feel offended, it is not up to be me to say they shouldn't. On the other hand, if they do cancel, how can they justify booking many of the acts that they do book. Will this usher in a new era for the venue where all acts will have to go under heavy scrutiny? How can a venue ban an artist on what is COMPARATIVELY a tame name (key word comparatively, that's why I put it in caps) compared to what it has hosted before and then ever host any of those artists ever again? Will it be opening the doors to never ending charges of hypocrisy or never ending series of boycotts?

The ball is now in the Pyramid's court. This should be interesting.

UPDATE:

The Pyramid has announced that they have cancelled the show. Interesting indeed. However, according to reports, the band will be playing at The Zoo in Winnipeg. We shall see if that comes true or not.

It's hard to know what to say here. I don't blame the Pyramid necessarily. They were between a rock and a hard place here. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. I don't want to say they made the wrong decision, but I also don't want to say they made the right decision. They made a decision. But I think I laid out above why the decision is problematic and what is means for the venue in the future.

UPDATE to the UPDATE:

So, yes, the show IS happening at the Zoo in Winnipeg, Tuesday, June 2nd. Furthermore, I just wrote this comment on a Facebook post that I thought I would pin to the end of this:

Sadly, for me, personally, and I know this is going to come across bad, but I now have a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Good Will Social Club. Some of the fiercest critics of this event kept dropping that name, and wanting the Pyramid to take on their policies, and for people to go there to a show the same night, almost in "protest". I don't want to demonize the GWSC, BUT, now I feel that it isn't an environment I would be welcome in at all and would be under scrutiny from the time I walked into the place. I used to think their policies sounded good (safe space policies against homophobia, sexism, racism, etc, etc., and for the most part YES, they are good). But now they sound a tad scary and as though these fierce critics who were so vitriolic wait there to judge and pounce. I know, probably irrational, and I am not calling for a boycott or trying to besmirch the place, but, I definitely got a bad taste in my mouth.

FINAL UPDATE

So, the Pyramid posted a rather odd thing on their Facebook page yesterday explaining that they had offered Black Pussy an opportunity to do a discussion session of sorts prior to the show where concerned parties could express their views to the band. They have since deleted it.

This, I thought, was bizarre. Is this the new standard in entertainment? If a band that has any controversial ideas, names, lyrics, videos, etc, is it now going to be a thing to have an open session prior to each performance to discuss these issues?? It's kind of like a meet and greet package, but instead it's a "meet and tell the band how much you hate them" package.

Yup. That was bizarre.

On a brighter note, apparently the band was paid in full for being cancelled, which I think was the right thing to do.

Given all this, however, I do want to point out that the Pyramid really is a fantastic venue. I've seen a ton of good stuff there and have always enjoyed the place. The atmosphere is great, the sound is excellent, the staff is wonderful and it's just a good place to go all around, and Winnipeg is lucky to have this venue. They have gone through a lot in the past week with all of this. I think they tried very hard to do what they felt was right. I feel that they listened to all sides of this story. They were gracious enough to allow their Facebook event page to be used as an open forum for discussion, which I think was healthy to some degree. I think it showed a commitment to the community, allowing the community to use it's page to discuss, sometimes intensely, a controversy (that shouldn't have been a controversy). I commend them for their efforts and know that they were in a tough position. I'm not convinced they necessarily did the right thing in the end, but they did what they did and they did it for their reasons, and it's now time to move on, remembering it is still one of the city's BEST venues!