Tag Archives: Penney Kome

Feminists mourn Wendy Robbins

Canadian sociologist championed women in academia, health care, activism

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY
April 22, 2017

Wendy Robbins, L,  with former Canadian Governor General Michaele Jean. Promo photo for the Wendy J. Robbins Women’s Empowement Fund. (Details

Feminists across Canada and abroad are mourning the sudden death of Professor Wendy Robbins of the University of New Brunswick, on April 14.

The Canadian 68-year-old English professor and chair or former chair of a dozen organizations was struck by a brain aneurysm and succumbed to surgery complications.

On her last evening, CBC reported, Wendy Robbins “attended the New Brunswick Liberal fundraiser, An Evening With Jean Chrétien, in Saint John, and took full advantage of the opportunity to bend the ear of the former prime minister.”  She was driving home to Fredericton when the headache started.

At the champagne reception, Robbins was promoting an audacious plan to increase the number of women legislators by requiring *two* elected representatives for every riding, one male and one female. Robbins had a history of promoting ideas that seemed audacious at the time but make perfect sense in retrospect.

For example, in 1995 Wendy Robbins did all the groundwork to start an email list – one of the earliest and longest lasting e-lists in Canada or the world, as it turned out.  She was the research director at the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women at the time, with access to a mainframe and technical help that allowed the CACSW to reach out to universities and those of us who had our own “personal” computers.

A rare e-list dedicated to feminist conversation – welcoming “men who share our goals” –  the bilingual Policy, Action, Research List, (PAR-L) quickly grew to include more than 1600 feminist academics, journalists, grassroots activists, researchers, women’s organizations, and others.

Unfortunately, PAR-L was set to launch on March 8, 1995, International Women’s Day. On March 1, the newly elected Brian Mulroney government announced it would close the CACSW on April 1. April Fool!

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Together with her colleague Michele Ollivier, Robbins found PAR-L a new home at the University of  New Brunswick. Robbins won an English post there, and became the first woman to win full professorship at UNB. Indeed, she co-founded UNB’s Women’s Studies Program.

With PARL safely housed, and Ollivier teaching in Ottawa, the list’s co-founders and co-moderators jumped into their life’s work — promoting gender equality, in Canada and internationally.

Between the two of them, Robbins and Ollivier actively moderated a truly bilingual list that shared resources across regions and cultures, from West Coast Rape Relief news to Indian Rights for Indian Women events, from Nicole Nepton’s Cybersolidaires updates in Montreal to New Brunswick’s Coalition for Pay Equity annual scorecards on the gender wage gap.

Alternating weeks, Ollivier and Robbins set a certain tone for the list, as well as weeding out duplicates and fact-checking. Their interventions smoothed language differences and kept PAR-L on topic; later, deft (and draining) moderation maintained a civil tone on the list when tempers flared over issues like prostitution and transgender folks’ analyses of feminism.

[Full disclosure: As a feminist journalist researching stories, I was a frequent PAR-L contributor early on, and sometimes had the good luck to meet up with Wendy or Michele in Ottawa or at conferences.]

Meanwhile, as PAR-L grew, so did the moderators’ careers.  Michele Ollivier started as an Associate Professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department the University of Ottawa. She was a Full Professor by 2010.

In 2003, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) proudly announced Wendy Robbins would be Visiting Scholar that year.

“Robbins will be collaborating with CAUT to produce the annual statistical report, Ivory Towers: Feminist Audits, a joint effort of CFHSS, CAUT and PAR-L…to gain a more precise understanding of the faculty wage gap,” said CAUT’s news release.

Based on CAUT’s statistics, Robbins and Ollivier led a successful human rights complaint against the federal government, over discrimination in the Canada Research Chairs Program.  Almost all the prestigious Chairs were held by white men, no matter how diverse their fields were.  After their court victory, Robbins served on the resulting Expert Panel on Women in University Research, at the Government of Canada’s request.

Robbins also served as Chair of the Women’s Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and Vice-President responsible for women’s and equity issues for the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS). Outside the academy, she had been President of New Brunswick Women’s Liberal Commission, and was serving as the Vice-President, Atlantic for the National Women’s Liberal Commission when she died.

In 2007, the Governor-General awarded Wendy Robbins the Person’s Medal in honour of her work online – PAR-L – and in the real world. In 2010, after a long illness, Michele Ollivier died, at the young age of 53. Although Robbins enlisted other PAR-L moderators from time to time, she still seemed to process most of the posts that appeared.

Now Wendy Robbins has died too. With the passing of both its founders, PAR-L was left without an owner.  It’s one of the oldest email lists in Canada, if not the world, with 20 years of valuable archives, and it was active right up until recent days.

E-lists have faded away in general. Facebook has taken over a lot of e-list functions, such as sharing resources and online real time Chats – and even monitoring for rude behaviour, what we used to call Nettiquette. Reading email feels almost like answering the landline. All the e-lists now seem to post in fits and starts. And yet, how I have missed seeing that PAR-L- subject line in my inbox.

In 2003, I was in Ottawa and dropped by to visit Wendy Robbins at her temporary quarters. I knew she was in town as Visiting Scholar at CAUT. I hadn’t realized she was staying in a (rather posh) long term rehabilitation facility because she’d been injured.

Riding her bicycle to work on one of her first days at CAUT, Wendy was clipped by a pick-up truck driving at speed. The truck’s side mirror threw her onto the ground, shattering one shoulder and the opposite thigh.

Nevertheless, she persisted. I found her in a tiny studio apartment, in a wheelchair, with her leg splinted out in front and her arm splinted out to the side. As we left to grab a coffee in the dining room, Wendy turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Race you to the elevator!”

Directly or indirectly, as professors, mentors, or trailblazers, Wendy Robbins and Michele Ollivier touched thousands of women’s lives.  I just heard that UNB has agreed to host the list indefinitely and two volunteer moderators have stepped forward. PAR-L will survive. Robbins’ and Ollivier’s feminist legacy will continue to enrich Canada.

Copyright Penney Kome 2017

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page or use the PayPal button below to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Media literacy in a post-fact age

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY
February, 2017

Fake news is as old as the Internet. From the 1990s, I remember spam, scams, and ghost ship “rolling” petitions that sailed the white-font-on-black-background PINE and LYNX seas – almost as soon as the first E-list was compiled.

Spam couldn’t easily penetrate Usenet – the threaded online discussion Bulletin Boards, or BB ses that scientists used. When email lists proliferated, however, spamsters found ways to hop on board other people’s trains, at open relays.

Good e-lists relied on volunteer moderators (as the long-lived feminist PAR-L list still does)  but messages on even the best-intentioned lists often carried warnings about non-existent viruses that urged recipients to “send this to everyone you know.” Such scaremongering turned the fake news messages into viruses in themselves.

Those fake warnings often pretended to be from the FBI or Microsoft. Up until now, nobody has ever dared to disseminate nakedly false news from the address @POTUS, President Of The United States. The new @POTUS breaks ground every day. On January 24, #45 tweeted what he said was an Inauguration Day, January 20, crowd photo. The problem is that the photo’s time/date stamp said it was taken the next day, January 21, the day of the Women’s March on Washington.

An old gag says you can’t make this stuff up – except that the recent U.S. election proves that scammers do! We the people are barraged by click bait and propaganda, both online and off. Fraudsters abroad fabricate stories with the sole purpose of shocking people enough to entice them to click through to bogus stories – stories which, beyond doubt, influenced the US election.

@POTUS himself tweets an endless stream of 140-character fantasy headlines which, in Cold War days, we would have called propaganda. These days, we just call it advertising.

 

Each article costs an author hours if not days of research and writing. You’ve already invested your own time in reading this work. Now you have a chance to put your money where your mind is – make a small donation towards this author’s next article. Use Penney Kome’s “Buy Now” button, below, to support Penney Kome’s work. To support F&O’s overall site, scroll to the bottom of the page. Either way, your support goes directly to the journalists who own and operate this news boutique.


 

SPOT THE FAKES

With online news accounting for so much of what we see and learn, a smart Internaut needs ways to assess the increasingly startling reports that other people share. Every published story usually carries some clues. As a journalist, I look at the reputation of the source of the story and the outlet that carries it. I search on the topic and see what other publications are saying. Lack of corroborating stories is usually a bad sign. And I try to check the facts, or find a fact-checker on the story.

Perhaps the longest-serving fact-checker on the Web is Snopes.com, which began in 1995 by checking urban legends and has evolved into checking news stories and celebrity claims. Started by two retired insurance workers, Snopes soon became a standard newsroom reference if you wanted to check a jarring story. Last December, Facebook signed a deal with Snopes to check the fake news circulating on member pages.

Now, says Kalev Leetaru, Snopes’ founders are divorcing, and the expanded Snopes site is part of the divorce case. Snopes is still a standard reference in newsrooms, he says, for situations like the recent case when the president’s spokesperson invented an imaginary Bowling Green Massacre to justify the travel ban on people from Muslim countries.

A more recent contender is MBFC, short for Media Bias Fact Check, which also provides lists of publications according to their left/right bias or reliable/unreliable status. MBFC even includes a list of
the 10 best fact-checking sites, such as Politifact, or the Annenberg Centre, or the Poynter Institute.

Fact checkers can help identify which news sites to avoid, and can be useful in online discussions. However, we seem to live in a post-fact or “alternative fact” political climate. Now let’s look at some recommendations for websites to include in order to get a wide perspective when an issue suddenly flares up.

Fans of democracy argue that, as a society, we need the whole news media ecology, including funding for major investigations as well as independent journalism sites, like FactsandOpinions.com. One major difference between Canada and the US is that Canada’s CRTC rejected core-cable status for SUN News, a kissing cousin to far right-wing Fox News in the US. Canadians have shown that much media savvy already.

In the US, a mere six companies control all the news media, outside of PBS – as Gemini Fox points out. She lists some independent outlets she finds reliable, such as Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!  and Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept. On Youtube, I like The Young Turks – youthful, insightful, insouciant, and literally Turks of Turkish descent. Bill Moyers also listed his top ten investigative sites on his blog.

Among mainstream media, Reuters News Service  stands out for Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler’s instruction to newsroom staff to cover the White House the way they cover governments such as “Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”

For what it’s worth, in my opinion most Americans would be amazed at the even-handed and thorough approach Canada’s CBC takes to news gathering. Business Insider found that Americans place most trust in British news sources, but rely on the likes of Fox and CNN for domestic news.

Pew Research Centre approaches the question another way, asking instead which news outlets are the more trusted. The Center found differences between liberals (who trusted 28 out of 36 news outlets) and conservatives, who trusted only 12 out of the 36 news organizations named.

Like anything else we see, what we observe depends largely on where we’re standing. Social media tend to reinforce our own attitudes, in that we see more of what we indicate we like. We need to treat our media diet like our food diet, aiming for variety as well as flavour and sustenance. We need to teach our children how to assess what they see onscreen, looking at source, content and context. As individuals, we need to follow a few trusted news sources (I like rabble.ca and CBC.ca), and keep a list of wildly inaccurate or politically unpalatable ones, like Breitbart.com And we can’t take them for granted.

News used to be the most important programming that local or national broadcasters could offer. These days, newspapers are thinner than thin mints. TV network websites promote entertainment or reality shows, and conceal news programming under the “More” button. In 2013, Jan Wong reported that Canada’s newsrooms had shed 10,000 jobs in the previous five years. Last December, Canada’s Public Policy Forum des politiques publique du Canada issued a report that warns Canada’s news media cannot survive their steeply dropping revenue. The report found that 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers have merged or closed shop since 2010, in more than 210 federal ridings. Small market TV stations have closed. Newsrooms everywhere whittle away at staff and services. The PPF cites an estimated 30 percent reduction in journalism jobs since 2010.

In response, Public Policy Forum President Ed Greenspon convened a panel of experts including pollster Allan Gregg to recommend ways to save the industry. “The Shattered Mirror” calls on the federal government to support media in Canada in a dozen ways such as adjusting tax breaks for online advertising; allowing non-profit media to register as charities and thus be eligible for philanthropic funding; strengthening the Copyright Act; strengthening and expanding Canadian Press; establishing Indigenous journalism as a discipline; creating a legal advice service for investigative journalists, and establishing a Future of Journalism and Democracy Fund, with an immediate endowment of $100 million and annual deposits of taxes from Canadian advertisements placed in foreign online media.

There’s a reason American president #45 is furiously trying to control the news media, to the extent that Washington DC police have laid felony charges against six journalists who covered Inauguration Day protests.

And it’s the flip side of the reason that the US and Canadian constitutions protect freedom of speech. As former Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief Edward Greenspon put it: “Canada’s news media is in the midst of an existential crisis. So, therefore, is our democracy.”

Copyright Penney Kome 2017

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

Related works on F&O:

Fake News and Our Happiness Disorder, by Deborah Jones, Free Range  Column

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan, Seeking Orenda  Column

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Singing is the best revenge

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
June, 2016

After Orlando mass shooting friends and family members embrace

After Orlando mass shooting friends and family members embrace. Reuters

Heightened security will greet a major Denver music festival, from  July 2 – 6. For a week, the U.S. city’s music venues will showcase 6000 singers in 130 groups. Although half a dozen similar festivals take place in Europe, in cities like Milan, Stuttgart and Utrecht, the quadrennial Gay And Lesbian (GALA) Choruses Festival is the largest of its kind in the Americas. And the new security measures reflect the horror of the June 12 mass murder at the Pulse Orlando nightclub, where all the evidence seems to point to a hate crime.

I was at church when I heard the Orlando fatality count. Sunday service was over; coffee served and cleared away. As a congregation, we’d circulated, chatted, signed cards for absent friends. Then as we gathered again in the main hall of the Calgary, Alberta, church, to hear a concert and support our fellow choristers as they prepared for GALA, our music director updated us on the news.

The news! I’d heard just a scrap of information on the radio, on my way out the door. A lone attacker. An AR-15 “assault rifle” that can spray 30 rounds before reloading. Rat-a-tat-tat. A machine gun in a dark noisy gay nightclub, where people didn’t even realize what was happening for the fatal first few minutes.

Jane told us that dozens had been killed. For being gay! I wanted to vomit. And she said, “We have decided that, in light of what happened in Orlando this morning, the only thing we can do is to sing.”

Jane Perry, our music director, believes in singing. She had a SWAT team in Ottawa, before she moved to this Western Canadian city. That’s “Song Will Always Triumph.” Soon after she and her partner, bass player Cora Castle, arrived in Calgary, they founded One Voice Chorus (OVC), an auditioned choir for LGBTQ singers and their straight allies. An auditioned choir perforce means clever singers and nimble, tuned voices. They offer World music, pop songs, torch songs, upbeat music from Lady GaGa to “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You…?” and harmonies ranging from Renaissance to kd lang. Several OVC singers also sing in the nine-woman BarberEllas, who offer barbershop harmonies in as many as six parts.

Both OVC and the BarbarEllas are among the 25 Canadian entries in the GALA Festival, among a truly international gathering of 6500 singers from around the world. The Festival is mainly designed as a chance for people to sing together, not for competition. In fact, the Festival guidelines for participants discourage competitiveness, and emphasize a sense of belonging – something LGBTQ youth especially often have trouble finding as they realize who they are.

Gay choruses stepped forward quickly when the statistics on gay youth suicides emerged. They recorded videos and podcasts promising, “It gets better.” And since Matthew Shepard’s tragic death in 1998, things did seem to get better for LGBTQ folks — in Canada anyway — with real strides towards marriage and workplace equality.

The GALA Festival has taken over Denver before, in 2012, without Pulse Orlando on everybody’s mind. Yet even in the face of potential threats, GALA Festival organizers seem determined to share their music. Looks like our music director is right: Singing well is the best revenge.

 

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Links:

GALA Festival: http://galachoruses.org/events/world-wide-glbt-festivals

Related on F&O:

Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility. By Barbara Liston

A man armed with an assault rifle killed and injured scores of people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.

Fighting for transgender rights in the U.S. By Reuters  Report/Photo-essay

Kate Lynn Blatt once lived as a woman at home but went to work in a battery factory as a man, a painful phase in her gender transition that would later propel her to the forefront of a constitutional battle for transgender rights in America.

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

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Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and survives on an honour system. Try one story at no charge; chip in at least $.27 apiece for more. If you value no-spam, no-ads, non-partisan, evidence-based, independent journalism, help us continue. Please share our links and respect our copyright.Details.

 

Return to F&O’s Contents

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The despair and death of America’s middle-aged women

America’s insistence that health care is a private matter and not a public responsibility has finally delivered some clear policy results. The rise in a population’s death rate shows something is wrong.

 

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
April, 2016

As Donald Trump arouses humour, fear, and world skepticism about this fall’s American elections, new reports reveal a wild card in the political mix. People are dying to get out of middle America. Social supports have been so weak and wages have been so low that mortality rates for midlife rural Americans are increasing, after more than a century of decreasing. Let me say that again: while life expectancy is rising in the developed world and much of the developing world, heartland Americans are dying in their prime years, especially middle-aged white women.

“The statistics show decaying health for all white women since 2000,” wrote Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating in the Washington Post. “The trend was most dramatic for women in the more rural areas. There, for every 100,000 women in their late 40s, 228 died at the turn of this century. Today, 296 are dying. And in rural areas, the uptick in mortality was noticeable even earlier, as far back as 1990. Since then, death rates for rural white women in midlife have risen by nearly 50 per cent.”

A December 2015 report in the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America compared this contrary trend to the AIDS crisis: “If [the white mortality rate for ages 45-54] had continued to decline at its previous (1979-1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999-2013, [a number] comparable to lives lost in the U.S. AIDS epidemic through mid-2015.”

Worse, health surveys found that fewer U.S. rural folks reported excellent health than previous generations had done. Chronic illnesses were on the rise. For every one of those half million avoidable deaths, many live on with their disease or addiction, in pain and with limitations.

You may wonder how this could be happening in America. American experts blame bad habits. The NAS report and the extended Washington Post follow-up cited many prevalent health issues, such as obesity, heavy drinking, smoking and opioid addiction.

Certainly some kind of self-destructive behaviour is going on. In 2011, “Poisoning, Drug Poisoning and Drug Poisoning Involving Opiods” overtook lung cancer as the leading cause of death among Americans 45 -54, says the NAS report, with suicide a close third. Then come chronic liver diseases and, way at the bottom, diabetes.

Just as Canada has a fentanyl crisis, the U.S. has a catastrophic opioid crisis — which many believe was created by doctors dispensing Oxycondin for pain as liberally as they once prescribed Valium for depression. When they stopped, their patients had to find other, riskier, resources. Opioids are cheaper and more available than, say, knee replacement, for folks who live paycheque to paycheque and can’t afford health insurance.

Post reporters investigated geographic areas that showed very high-mortality rates. “In Victoria County, Tex.,” says the Post article, “a rural area near the Gulf Coast, deaths among women 45 to 54 have climbed by 169 percent [between 1999 and 2013], the sharpest increase in that age group of any U.S. county. The death rate climbed from 216 per 100,000 people to 583.”

Likewise, “A 2013 study at the University of Wisconsin looked at the geography of death and discovered that mortality for women of all races had risen in 43 per cent of U.S. counties between 1992 and 2006. Men’s mortality had risen in only 3 per cent of counties.”

Investigators found that about one-third of Victoria County’s population is obese, and one-fifth smoke cigarettes. The article quotes the health department medical director saying that she personally knows many, many white women with cancer. “It’s kind of weird,” she said.

The Post cited stress caused by women’s changing roles as causing obesity, smoking, and of course, heavy alcohol use. The NAS study cites these typical rural women’s health issues and allows that the 2008 financial crash might have played a role.

Apart from those mentions, I keep searching the reports in vain for some mention of social, economic and environmental factors. For example, Victoria County, Texas, is a major coastal crossroads that lies on a bay off the Gulf of Mexico, adjacent to a Texas county that received compensation for the BP Horizon underwater oil gusher. A cancer cluster might signal environmental contamination.

Let’s suggest a few other reasons that might expose poor women to potentially lethal risk of  poor health:

  • Before the Affordable Care Act was recently introduced, the U.S. was the only world power without universal health care coverage. If NAS repeats this study in five years, some findings may be different.
  • Contrariwise, the US is the only country with nearly universal access to guns. One report found that, “Someone with access to firearms is three times more likely to commit suicide and nearly twice as likely to be the victim of a homicide as someone who does not have access.”
  • The Republican party’s “War on Women” particularly attacked women’s ability to control pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies plus poverty plus insufficient health care equal poor prognoses for mother as well as child. The Post notes that the women who are dying are “of reproductive age,” (45 – 54), which is mostly true, although pregnancy and childbirth are riskier for women in their 40s.
  • Republican governments also instituted “workfare” programs that require welfare recipients (a majority of whom are white) to hold jobs or to perform community service — and that contain lifetime limits on single parents’ eligibility for benefits. Trapped in workfare jobs, single mothers had barely time to spend with their children, much less improve their education or prospects. They’re the ones who were hurt first by these welfare “reforms.”
  • Between the internet and international trade agreements, whole industries are disappearing from local job markets. People may re-train two or three times as their jobs are outsourced, and still never find a stable career.

In a sense, America’s insistence that health care is a private matter and not a public responsibility has finally delivered some clear policy results. I believe there’s consensus that when a population’s death rate rises, something is wrong. Here are my conclusions:

1) For-profit medical care fails massively. In other countries, people who get sick seek out medical help. They present themselves to the doctor, the nurse practitioner, the walk-in clinic, the ER, or the urgent care clinic, and they ask for help. There’s no shame and no expense.  When people have to worry about whether they can pay the doctor – especially for intractable chronic conditions like strained backs – they tend to avoid the effort and instead self medicate, as they get sicker and sicker.

2) Separation makes people vulnerable. U.S. policy emphasizes individualism as opposed to community strength.  People are expected to follow their work or their dreams, and not to settle down next to their parents. In countries that stress community rather than individuality, mortality rates are still holding steady or dropping.

3) Americans urgently need research to count up how many women were pregnant or post-pregnant when they died, in the states that passed regressive anti-abortion measures. Argentina has strict anti-abortion laws, which Human Rights Watch says “are the leading cause of maternal mortality in this country” for as long as Argentina has had statistics.  If women are dying in mid-life because of initiatives supposedly for “the sanctity of all life,” voters should know it.

4) Finally, women cannot carry the extra weight. The perennial policy of relying on women’s unpaid work to make up for scarcer and scarcer resources is totally bankrupt. Weak flesh can only take so much. America would be alarmed if middle-aged women were robbing banks or blowing up legislatures. But women dying? The response is, “What else is new?” With welfare payments restricted, the only safety valve seems to be disability payments, already attracting swelling numbers of people.

America’s heartland is in despair. The people there have been failed by the economy and the medical system. Desperate people will believe anything and do anything – maybe even vote for Donald Trump. They’re living in a tempest. The world will reap the whirlwind.

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com
Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and survives on an honour system. Try one story at no charge; chip in at least $.27 apiece for more. If you value no-spam, no-ads, non-partisan, evidence-based, independent journalism, help us continue. Please share our links and respect our copyright.Details.

 

Return to F&O’s Contents

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Deepa Mehta: pushing boundaries with Beeba Boys

Deepa Mehta, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director and producer whose work in film has attracted significant recognition, including the Governor General’s award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada. Photo: Simon Fraser University

Deepa Mehta, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director and producer whose work in film has attracted significant recognition, including the Governor General’s award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada, was awarded an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University in 2015. Photo: Simon Fraser University

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
February, 2016

All of Deepa Mehta’s major films have caused controversy, including the latest, Beeba Boys. Just released,  Beeba Boys (kind of a Sikh Sopranos) depicts the stylish, violent  world of  second- and third-generation Indian gang-bangers in metro Vancouver.  The topic is timely — 150 young men have died in gang violence in the Western Canadian city since the 1990s — but not one that the local South Asian communities particularly want aired.

Former British Columbia Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who supported the film project, told The Globe and Mail newspaper, “[Beeba Boys] is a very brutally honest depiction of a brutal disease that afflicts B.C., and some of it is in the Indo-Canadian community… Honesty offends. It hurts. It provides insights and provides hurts. It did all of that for me.”

Deepa Mehta is used to pushing people’s boundaries, which she does in the name of reflecting reality. “In every immigrant community, gangs have been part of the acculturation process,” she said. “Gangsterism begins with a strong sense of disenfranchisement, as well as greed and quest for power. The Indo-gangs in the film are the anthesis of conventional view of South Asians as timid shopkeepers.”

After 40 years of movie-making in Canada, Mehta’s numerous awards include several honorary doctorate degrees, the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, and the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Wikipedia notes 1998 [Earth] and 2005 [Water] Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a 2003 Genie for Best Original Screenplay for Bollywood, Hollywood.

On February 3, Deepa Mehta presented the 2016 Global Canwest Lecture at the University of Calgary’s Department of Communications, Media and Film — a two-and-a-half-hour review of her fascination with the role violence plays in relationships.

Born and raised in India, Mehta grew up helping her father, who distributed films for a living. “I sat in the front row every weekend,” she said. “I literally grew up with films. As a result, I decided if there was anything I wanted to do with my life it was not to be a filmmaker.” She earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Delhi instead. Unemployed, she offered to answer phones at a friend’s struggling film company. Instead, she began making short documentaries.

That’s how she met her first husband, Paul Saltzman,  a Canadian documentarian. She immigrated to Canada in 1973, and began writing children’s movies. In 1991, she released Sam and Me, her first feature-length film, about the relationship between an elderly Orthodox Jew and his South Asian caregiver. Beeba Boys is her 12th movie.

“I get interested in the subject first, and then I write the story,” she said. She used her film Water as an example. “I was in India, making two episodes of the Young Indiana Jones TV series for George Lucas. I got up early to see the sunrise, and I saw an old  hunched-up woman with a shaven head, all in white, looking for her glasses. I offered to take her home and saw something I’d never seen before. She lived in a house of widows, in 1996! I was shocked! The place was packed with widows, from 16 to 85 years old, and they all had shaven heads. That was the genesis of Water. It’s basically about the advent of patriarchy. When a woman is a possession and the owner dies, the widow is half dead.”

When she started to shoot Water in India, however, Hindu nationalists picketed her. “When we had shot the first scene, we came out of the house and found ourselves surrounded by protesters. We became a soft target for local politicians who styled themselves as Hindu saviours. Six hours later, the authorities stopped us because a man jumped off a bridge in protest. So we closed the production. We heard later that man used to pretend to commit suicide all the time.”

She shut down production and returned to Canada, “and that was the first time I really thought of Canada as home. I felt safe here, safe in my own country.” To take her mind off the frustration, she made the cross-genre comedy Bollywood Hollywood, a complete change of pace.

Of her other movies in The Elemental Trilogy, Fire re-imagines a deep friendship between women as a physical relationship, causing tension in their arranged marriages. Earth re-tells the horrific violence between Muslims and Hindus during Pakistan’s partition from India. Midnight’s Children, based on Salman Rushdie’s magic realism novel, also addresses Partition as well as India’s independence from England. She offered to make a film from any of his novels, and that’s the one he chose.

Mehta reflected on how her father the film distributor responded when she told him she wanted to be a filmmaker. “He said, there are two things in life you never know about: when you’re going to die, and how well a film is going to do. So if you don’t care about the outcome, go ahead.” She laughed.

“Last year TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) showed a retrospective on my work and all the clips they chose had some aspect of violence,” she said. “Violence reaches across place or class. My stories are specific but they are universal. I try to fit tragedies within a personal context. I want to identify triggers, and try to modify the impact of violence — perhaps because I long for peace, and until we understand violence we can’t have it.”

As for Beeba Boys, critics either love it or they hate it. She’s familiar with the ambivalence. “Each of my films was rejected,” she said, “until it was loved.”

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Disneyfied Star Wars an iconic kids’ flick

sw_vii_rey_and_fin_run_from_storm_troopers

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
December, 2015

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: as the sun rises, the camera pans in on a droid rolling across barren dunes, burbling and tweeting to itself, on an errand to deliver a crucial message to the Resistance.  Spoiler alert: in some ways, The Force Awakens is a mirror image to the very first Star Wars movie, the 1977 space opera that was so fresh and inspiring that it became the only movie I’ve ever paid money to see in a theatre three times.

Stay with me now: Star Wars VII replicates the same plot as the first Star Wars, which has been re-named Star Wars IV: A New Hope. This time though, the supposed purpose of the search is to find SW IV’s hero, Luke Skywalker, (Mark Hamill) who (spoiler alert) appears onscreen for less than a minute.

SW VII, which I shall call Awakened Hope, is grabbing a whole new generation with story lines that are older than Hans Solo.  Actually, Hans Solo holds up his end of the story line really well. Technically, the 3D version is spectacular, providing both depth and perspective in decidedly alien worlds full of shambling, ambulating beings and machines. Objects really do pop right out of the screen. When a starship prow suddenly thrust out over our heads, I ducked – and others in the audience did too.

To my great relief, the Disney version avoids the racism and sexism in George Lucas’ three “prequels,” none of which (I confess) I could sit through.  Disney’s ease with diversity is refreshing. Star Trooper deserter Finn is no Jar Jar Binks – he’s a leading man following a leading lady.  Rey is no wife, mother or girlfriend, despite her yearning to reunite with her family.  Freed from her scanty costume and Jabba the Hutt, Princess Leia is a Cabinet minister and a military commander. Disney’s Star Wars more resembles a modern comic book than an old fashioned “boy’s own” adventure like Lord of the Rings.

On the other hand, if George Lucas provided the plot points on the story map,  Disney Corp provided the characters this time around.  In her 2001 book, Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy, author Janet Wasko described the 10 classic Disney characters, including the all-American hero or heroine who heeds the call of duty and leaves home (Rey); the Love Interest, who starts as a perceived enemy or rival (Poe, I’m guessing); and the villain, who craves control of the universe, and who usually perishes by falling. All these characters appear in SW VII, along with the sidekick, the “hero’s naughty younger sibling,” in this case, the droids, who caper about like the dishes and cutlery in Beauty and the Beast.

Disney films usually include a Mentor figure, in this case, Maz, a female Yoda, played by the superb but unrecognizable Lupita Nyong’o. The Finn character echoes another Disney meme: he’s an orphan, like Bambi. Star Troopers snatched him as a young child, and viewers meet him as a lamb spattered with blood.

Disney’s animation is the real strength in SW VII though. The artistic teams soar to new stratospheres here, with epic live and CGI casts involved in astonishing space battles, cross-cut with desperate live action chases through living jungles.

This time around, Star Wars really does represent an Empire – an empire of video games and tie-in books, which explain and embody a huge back story that seems kind of fuzzy in the movie. “The movie doesn’t do a great job explaining what’s going on,” writes blogger Zack Beauchamp, “but the answer is that it’s a lot like a proxy war situation we’ve seen in real life: A foreign country (the Republic) is supporting an insurgency (the Resistance) against a nearby country (the First Order) that it doesn’t like. Once you understand this, the plot of the movie makes a lot more sense — and the stakes for the next movie get even bigger….This is all spelled out in tie-in books and video games (both io9 and BirthMoviesDeath have helpful summaries) rather than stated explicitly in The Force Awakens, which makes the movie’s action hard to follow….”

None of this confusion seems to bother fans. SW VII is smashing box office records. Bloggers giddily speculate about Rey’s origins (“the Force is strong in her”) and her lost family. When Disney paid $4 billion for the Star Wars franchise, the company promised another trilogy.  Maybe SW VII re-states the basic story as foundation for the next two movies.

Actually, choosing a ticket for SW VII turned out to be an adventure in itself. We wanted 3D but Cineplex offers new seating options –  3D seats in AVX (special audio) and DS (rumble seats, which I guess means they shake.) How fitting! Disney Corp turned an amusement park ride (Pirates of the Caribbean) into a three-movie franchise. Now it’s done the opposite — turning a movie franchise into an onscreen amusement park ride.  Will wonders never cease?

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Related on F&O:

Star Wars inspired me to become an astrophysicist, by Martin Hendry, guest column

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

 

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Climate watch: the world cannot afford a war

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
December, 2015

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

War, the most costly and damaging human activity, is outside the scope of Paris climate talks.

Like most Canadians, I think, I was pleased when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled that his government recognizes climate change as an urgent issue, and appointed Catherine McKenna as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Another climate decision was less obvious:  his government’s decision to step back from the Syrian bombing runs.  War is the most destructive of all human activities, environmentally as well as materially.

And that is today’s Over Easy. On one hand, compared to five years ago, it’s phenomenal that 195 nations could come together in Paris to work on a treaty to reduce climate change. Turn the discussion over gently, though, and nothing I’ve read indicates that the treaty bans war. Lately there’s a whole lot of sabre rattling going on. France joined the United States and United Kingdom in bombing Syria, in revenge for the Paris attacks.  Turkey shot down a Russian airplane.  An army of dispossessed refugees brought their desperation back to the European nations, which triggered staggering humanitarian crises that prompted calls for US or North Atlantic Treaty Organization military intervention. And US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

In Paris, national leaders have acknowledged that, much as they may agree on the objective, they are dealing with a tinderbox of political and geophysical tensions.  They’re not just asking people to give up their cars or put on another sweater. Two-thirds of carbon emissions come from industries  and the military.  For example, the US Pentagon is the single biggest user of fuel oil in the world – even more so, during a war.

“If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually, more than 60 percent of all countries,” the non-profit group Oil Change calculated in 2008, estimating the impact of the US occupation of Iraq.

I’ve been Googling “war and environment” since forever, and after years of practically no hits, these days a search delivers 522 million hits.  I also got 138 millions hits on “war and climate change” but most of those are reports on the growing category of “climate refugees,” people forced from their homes by floods, wildfires, droughts (like the Syrians) or famines caused by climate change.

You don’t need to smell the gunpowder when big bombs go off. Just watch the billowing smoke clouds to realize that modern warfare is a distinct threat to the climate.  I fretted about buying carbon offsets when I flew home to see my Mother in the U.S. Look at the US-led occupation of Iraq.  In 2003, George W Bush’s Operation Shock and Awe attack involved nearly 30,000 bombing sorties over Baghdad in the first few days, and 800 Tomahawk missiles.  Day and night for 48 hours, on TV the sky looked like someone had tossed a match into a fireworks factory. Millions of kilos of explosives pounded Baghdad, loading the atmosphere with ash and dust, as well as CO2 from burning fuel.

Then there was Fallujah, the city the US-led coalition destroyed in order to save it, with cluster bombs and incendiary white phosphorous. Some sixty percent of Fallujah’s buildings were smashed by missiles or artillery, and 40 to 60 percent of the population killed or dispersed.

The 1991 first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, had environmentally catastrophic consequences, when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein set fire to more than 600 oil wells in the Kuwaiti oil fields he coveted. The fields burned for about ten months, consuming an estimated six million barrels a day, and releasing an estimated half a billion tons of CO2 into the sky.

Where there’s smoke, there’s carbon. Carbon is a very useful element – none of us would be alive without it – but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned since 1988 about CO2 and the greenhouse effect.  Now every year is hotter than the one before, and so is every month. The World Meteorological Institute projected that 2015 will the hottest year on record and also that  2011-2015 has been the warmest five-year period ever recorded, with many extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, influenced by climate change.

Insurance companies blame climate change for extreme weather, such as polar vortexes, floods, droughts, forest fires, Superstorm Sandy, and other catastrophic events that have caused unprecedented huge compensation claims. But worse may be on the horizon. In May 2015, the Environmental Defense Fund listed six “Environmental Tipping Points” that could push the earth beyond recovery, including sections of Antarctica melting, and much longer El Ninos (such as we’re seeing this year.)

Canada’s prime minister won applause in Paris for stepping up to the cause – whole-heartedly, if only in comparison with the government of previous prime minister Stephen Harper. But talking about cars and coal-fired power plants is not enough.  Despite Christiana Figueres’ five years of hard groundwork to bring 195 nations together for an agreement on a climate protection treaty, one vital aspect remains unspoken.

Trudeau addressed the military’s role in climate change when he suspended Canadian overflights, even if that wasn’t his intent. And among US President Barack Obama’s great unsung achievements, IMO, is that he has persistently sliced away at the military grip on the federal budget, US foreign policy, and the national economy –  moving the States back to a civilian economy and away from the war-based economy described in Addicted to War.

World leaders may sign an agreement to cap, contain and reduce carbon emissions in the civilian economy. That alone is a mammoth task. But to prevent one major Shock and Awe style attack from tipping the world’s climate over an edge, they must also find a way to ban war – in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. They can sign a million climate treaties and pledge their countries will reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, and I’ll be in the front row cheering. The world climate action campaigners can take a few moments to pat themselves on the back too. But all their efforts will be in vain if a escalating conflicts push the world over a tipping point into climate catastrophe. To have a peaceful climate, we must have a peaceful world.

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Unpacking the backpack of Christian privilege

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
November, 2015

Starbucks red cups, advertising image

Starbucks ad for red cups

So Starbucks has won 2015’s first “War On Christmas” prize, by offering seasonal red, green and white paper coffee cups that some evangelicals deem not Christmasy enough. And it’s only the beginning of November! While I usually try to ignore such skirmishes, the kerfuffle made me think of Harvard professor Peggy McIntosh. Her 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” changed millions of lives, including mine. Now I want to take up her challenge and suggest that members of the erstwhile Christian majority in U.S. and Canadian society also carry invisible knapsacks of Christian privilege.

I encountered Peggy McIntosh’s essay in the early 1990s, when I served on the board of Calgary’s Women Looking Forward, a coalition board that included women from the community as well as representatives from women’s groups in the Alberta city. Although Calgary seemed to be almost all-white when I arrived in 1987, WLF did have some women of colour on the board, mostly from immigrant groups. One woman, Theresa Woo-Paw, went on to become a provincial cabinet minister. To raise our own awareness of unconscious assumptions that might be discouraging more ethnic women from participating, the WLF board took part in a consciousness-raising exercise based on Peggy McIntosh’s essay about what white people take for granted.

My first reaction to McIntosh’s essay was fury – like most white people who read it for the first time, especially those of us who have worked for civil rights and human rights since the 1960s. Before long, though, her observations made sense, especially in the context of U.S. racial relations. McIntosh was perhaps the first to point to systemic privileges, things that might seem outside an individual’s control but that have unequal impacts on individuals’ lives.

After McIntosh spent several weeks writing down insights and checking them with Harvard colleagues, both white and African-American, she wrote: “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious… White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks…” She said that her identity as part of the majority conferred privileges or advantages such as:

  • When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my colour made it what it is.
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  • I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  • I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  • I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
  • I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  • I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of colour who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

“…For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject,” she went on. “The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.”

McIntosh’s feminism gave her the initial insight that led her to wonder about a racialized discrepency. “I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged,” she wrote. Her notes to workshop facilitators say to encourage participants to write about other areas where they see some people at a disadvantage – including religion – as long as they do so from a personal, autobiographical perspective, as she did.

“Please draw attention to the specificity of ‘my sample,'” she wrote. “I compared my circumstances only with what I knew of the circumstances of my African-American female colleagues in the same building and line of work. This sample is very specific with regard to race, sex, region, location, workplace, vocation and nation.”

With her words ringing in my ears, I turn to recent discussions about the 2015 Starbucks holiday season cup, and the reasons that people I like and respect have given for maintaining this time of year as exclusively a space for Christmas and Christians. [But not including American “evangelist internet and social media personality” Joshua Feuerstein, who started the Starbucks so-called “scandal” with a cell phone rant.] http://www.joshuafeuerstein.com/about-josh/4585043155

1. “We’re all raised in a Christian culture,” said one friend.”You can’t escape it.” But Jews have always lived alongside the mainstream, adapting with their own Christmas traditions, such as an annual Chinese dinner and a movie. My Muslim friends delivered Christmas gift baskets last year. I’d have to research to know what to send them for Ramadan. McIntosh said: “When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization,’ I am shown that people of my colour made it what it is.” Christians can say that much more easily than Jews, or Muslims, or even First Nations people. (Let’s talk about Thanksgiving, eh?) Christians still assume that theirs is the mainstream culture, but that’s hardly the case now, if it ever was.

2. Many symbols are common to several religions, and often more recent religions overwrote already-popular faiths. My choir is singing a song about the Rock of Ages for our Winter Holidays concert, a song that was offered as Christian. News flash: Rock of Ages is a Hanukkah song. McIntosh said, “I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.” Christmas carols blaring from speakers in every mall and public plaza re-affirm Christian privilege, as well as urging shoppers to buy more. (I can’t even imagine how store staff feel after two months of the constant repetition. Worse, a friend in retail reports shoppers often say, “Merry Christmas,” and get miffed if the response is, “Happy holidays.” ) No such musical extravaganza greets Hannukah, or even Chinese New Year’s, which occurs just over a month later.

3. Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis argued that her “religious freedom” allowed her to refuse marriage licenses to same sex couples. As the mother of an adult gay child living in Alberta, I think her position ironic and immoral. The irony is that her “freedom” means that some people I care about don’t feel safe on Calgary streets. Peggy McIntosh wrote: “I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.” Christians complain they “don’t feel safe” using words like God and Jesus – that people react by rolling their eyes. My child deserves to feel safe too, and not have to worry about a pickup truck pulling up behind them loudly on a quiet street and disgorging five mouthy guys with baseball bats, as has happened to more than one LGBTQ friend of mine.

4. Unlike Christianity, many faiths emphasize seeking, discussion and debate. I’m a Unitarian. An old joke says that if a group of Unitarians was climbing a mountain and came across a fork in the road, with signs pointing either “To Heaven” or “To Discussions About Heaven’s Existence,” the Unitarian group would go to the discussion. My Jewish friends get into arcane debates to show off their knowledge; their joke is, “Two Jews, three opinions.” McIntosh wrote, “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.” Christians often ask, “So how do your people interpret….” this or that. Short answer: depends on the person.

5. Christian statutory holidays mark the turning of the year just as the seasons do. Workplaces and public institutions make far fewer accommodations for religious fasts, like the month-long Ramadan holiday; or 10 day feasts, like Chinese New Year’s – or even East Indian Christmas, Diwali, which also rotates through the year. McIntosh wrote: “I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of colour who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.” Christians can observe their own holidays without hindrance, but members of other faiths must fit their celebrations into workplace schedules designed around Christian events.

6. Finally, there is the question of dissent. Christians feel free to criticize other faiths, especially Islam. But the reverse is not necessarily true. After the murders at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris last January, people whom I had previously believed to be level-headed were prepared to round up all Muslims and – well, they never got to “send them away” or “put them in camps,” but news reports showed some yahoos did go to their local mosques to harass women wearing hijabs. McIntosh said, “I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behaviour without being seen as a cultural outsider.” I can’t speak for how Muslims feel, but I felt pretty beaten up after a week arguing with otherwise-intelligent people who wanted to deport them all.

Some Christians are also bothered by the “war on Christmas” mentality, but for different reasons. Last year, Stephen Ingram, an Alabama Methodist youth minister, wrote, “The very fact that people feel that it is their duty to mandate Christ in Christmas is, in and of itself, an act of heresy….”

He continued: “I know many very well-intentioned people believe that they are fighting the good fight and are experiencing religious persecution, but that is simply a wrong way of thinking. If you are a Christian in America, you have to stop pulling the persecution card. It is not persecution just because you do not get everything you want or because you can not do whatever you please….”

Or more to the point, he says, the issue is that Christians cannot force everybody else to do what they, the Christians, want. “Christianity, as defined by the life and teachings of Jesus, never depended or insisted on being the majority, in power or even influential. It was a religion that lauded the weak, meek and the poor….”

“…When we try to force God on others we reincarnate some of the worst epochs of our religious history, and default on its core founding principles of Love, Grace and Hospitality. When we assume these seats of power and belligerently insist that we take priority and our voice is the only voice that matters, we are not representing the man who called for humility, peacemaking. meekness and self sacrifice. What we do is become pawns in larger economic and political narratives, not the narrative of Christ as found in the Bible. We do not serve the one we call the Prince of Peace, we serve corporate America, politicians who use religion for their platforms and men and women who ride the coat tails of Jesus straight to power.”

Personally, I see religion as one of the mechanisms for maintaining class privileges in our society, which has been described to me as Anglicans at the top, Catholics marching close behind, United Church in the rear, and other religions barely visible. McIntosh said, “One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppresions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant group one is taught not to see….”  For me, insisting that Christmas is the only December holiday is embedded form, a privilege or advantage that Christians take so much for granted that they resent having to share the month.

For Christians, I leave the last word to Stephen Ingram: “As a person of faith, you do not have to keep Christ in Christmas. He is already there. He is there with the lonely, the depressed, the joyful and the confused. He is there with the widow and the orphan, with you, with me and with the atheist. As people of faith it is in these places, fueled by grace love and hospitality, we cannot bring Christ back to Christmas but join with him in the work he is already doing, and sometimes work he is already doing – in spite of the best intentions of his people.”

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

References and links:

Starbucks’s Red Holiday Cups Inspire Outcry Online, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/business/starbuckss-red-holiday-cups-inspire-outcry-online.html
National Seed Project, White Privilege
…. :http://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

Stephen Ingram, The Heresy of “Keeping Christ In Christmas:” http://www.organicstudentministry.com/?p=61156&utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork

Joshua Feuerstein, who started the Starbucks so-called “scandal” with a cell phone rant: http://www.joshuafeuerstein.com/about-josh/4585043155

~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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BILL WUTTUNEE remembered 1928 – 2015

PENNEY KOME
November, 2015

bill_wut2My hero and longtime friend William Wutunee has gone to meet the Great Creator at the age of 87. Or maybe not. Although Bill was a shaman who sometimes donned his Grand Chief eagle feather headdress to lead our Unitarian congregation in healing circles, he was also an intellectual who enjoyed reading atheist Richard Dawkins and debating his talking points.

Bill’s life changed Canada, not just for Native people, but for all of us. He was:

  • the first Native lawyer in Western Canada,
  • a friend and political ally of Tommy Douglas,
  • an early defence lawyer on human rights issues such as homosexuality,
  • a key person in convening the first national Chief’s conference (and the first national Chief),
  • and above all, an Assembly of First Nations strategist around the issue of residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I’ve known Bill for more than a decade, as well as his daughter Nola, a former anchor person with cable TV network APTN, and some other members of his family. I’m glad he lived to see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission deliver meaningful recommendations, even with the discomforts of his worsening health.

RUFFLED FEATHERS

Helping to set up Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just the latest work in Cree Elder Bill Wuttunee’s lifetime of activism on behalf of Native people, and indeed, of all Canadians who face discrimination.

Bill was born in 1928 and grew up on a farm on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan. His parents, James and Jane Priscilla Wuttunee, were both well-educated for their time. James earned the equivalent of a Grade 12 diploma in the early 1900s, when few Canadians attended high school at all. The couple ran a small mixed farm, with livestock as well as crops. During the Great Depression, they had plenty of food and intellectual stimulation to share with their 13 children, of whom four died young.

When he was 12, Bill said, he was reading a Hansard report on the joint House-Senate committe on Indian Affairs, and came across a case where a lawyer told Indians they were “estopped” from making their presentation. He taunted them that they did not know what “estoppel” means. Bill vowed he would become a lawyer, and defend his people. He was called to the Bar in Saskatchewan in 1952, becoming the first Native lawyer in Western Canada. And he fulfilled his childhood vow in 1959 when, “I appeared before that very same committee,” he said, “and I was a lawyer, and I could answer any question they asked.”

In 1958, (then) Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas asked Bill to work on the Provincial Committee on Minority Groups. That summer, Bill visited 56 Indian bands across the province and organized a conference on the topic of what the province could do for Natives. When the band representatives voted to ask for provincial voting rights and access to liquor, Tommy Douglas promptly introduced the legislation to grant their requests.

“So that’s how all the provinces began to get involved with Indians,” Bill recalled in an interview in 2009. “And the next year, the federal government passed a law so that Native people could vote across Canada.” Bill spent the next few years working on getting electricity and then telephone services to the reserves. Saskatchewan Telephone didn’t want to put a phone on a reserve because they said nobody would pay the bill. “So I said, put in a pay phone,” said Bill, “and they did.”

In 1962, Bill moved to Edmonton to work for the Canadian Citizenship branch – for one year. “I was fired because I’d been talking with Indians about independence,” he said. “I never made a fuss over that. But at the same time, there was a fellow named Marcel Chaput, in Quebec. He was fired at the same time, for advocating independence for the French. He made a fuss, and that hit the papers.”

Bill decided to set up his own law practice in Calgary handling criminal cases and family law. “I didn’t know anybody here. I came here because the weather was nice and the people seemed nice, and I’ve never been sorry. Alberta has been good to me, and good for my family.” Bill and his first wife, Bernice, raised five children together, all of whom now follow professional occupations, in academia and education, media, law, and the civil service. He and his partner, Rose, have a son who is a lawyer.

In 1966, Bill opened a branch office in Yellowknife, where one of his cases was to defend Everett Klippert in a case that led to changes in the law against homosexuality. Charged with “gross indecency” because he admitted to having had sexual relations with four separate men, Klippert was sentenced to “preventive detention” (that is, indefinitely) as a Dangerous Sexual Offender. He served five years while his appeal worked its way through the courts to the Supreme Court, where it was finally dismissed in a controversial 3-2 decision.

Then Tommy Douglas raised the issue in the House of Commons and, within six weeks, Pierre Trudeau introduced changes to the Criminal Code, decriminalizing homosexuality. Said Bill, “Trudeau cited the Klippert case when he said that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Meanwhile, in 1961, Bill had attended a conference in Winnipeg, which led to the formation of the National Indian Brotherhood (later renamed the Assembly of First Nations). Bill was elected the first Chief of the National Indian Brotherhood, a position he filled until 1965. He still has the eagle feather headdress that came with the job. Until recently, in his role as shaman, he wore that headdress to conduct healing circles.

“I’ve been reading Richard Dawkins lately on the God Delusion,” Bill told me. “And I’m re-thinking the shaman business.”

In his latter years  Bill Wuttunee was a bundle of contradictions: thoughtful and intellectual, yet playful and unpredictable; living among French Provincial furniture and wearing Holt Renfrew sweaters, yet proudly rooted in his Native history and traditions. Although he no longer practices law, he keeps busy. To name only one among his many pastimes, he researched and compiled an extensive Cree grammar, and plans to put it on a website someday.

He had enduring influence with the Assembly of First Nations, and representing the AFN advisory group helped shape the federal government’s response to the tragic effects of the Indian Residential Schools. Bill was a residential school survivor himself – he attended the Onion Lake Residential School for two years in his teens, so knew what the issues are and (in a very real sense) where some of the bodies are buried.

 

Bill helped set up Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings across Canada, helped select the lawyers (including from, he noted proudly, some 2,000 First Nations lawyers today), and helped create the format: “I urged them to honour Native traditions – for example, to have witnesses hold an eagle feather instead of swearing on the Bible.”

Of his own experiences in residential school, Bill told the congregation of the Unitarian Church of Calgary, “I came from a reserve that had lots of land, more than 36,000 acres. We could do anything we wanted. We could go horseback riding. We could gallop across the plains. We could go hunting. And we had good parents, they cared for us, they weren’t disciplinarians. Then one day, a Black Mariah drew up, and all the kids got in there, and a white guy took us off to Onion Lake, to a three story brick building, where we had to line up for everything.

“There was one bathtub, for about a hundred boys, and two or three showers, and about eight toilets. One time I saw a little boy being strapped. I had a wrist watch on at the time, and I looked at my watch. And do you know, that little boy was strapped for 20 minutes, on his bare arms. Sometimes people who were punished tried to run away. And if you ran away and you got caught, you were severely punished. My brother Paul ran away, with some other boys, and the RCMP brought them back. They were stripped naked, and whipped a hundred times. Then they had their hair cut off, and they were put in dresses.”

As Bill described some of the unspeakable behaviour that went on in residential schools, listeners could only shake their heads numbly. Finally he asked, “What can we do about it now?” and he answered, “We have to trade our tears of sadness for tears of joy, for the people who were put to great distress, at a time when they were only children. Those children became parents, and passed all their unresolved stress unto the next generation. We can now show the oppressed, and the oppressors, that we can work together to bring about reconciliation.

“…The plans to destroy an indigenous nation so their lands could be taken over by the settlers have been done all over the world, for instance the British in India, and continues to happen here and in other countries. This is done because of greed, and selfishness, and the search for gold, land, minerals, at any cost. But the native people don’t amass wealth, like other people do. We have enough in our land, in our lives, and the people and animals around us, and that’s the big difference. As time goes on, I’m sure we will have similar values. You will learn from us, and we will learn from you.”

Epilogue:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is one aspect of a $4 billion court settlement reached in December 2006, as a result of a class action suit that the Assembly of First Nations filed in August 2005. The AFN Task Force had been collecting evidence on the Indian Residential Schools since 1998.

Residential schools operated for about 100 years, starting from the 1850s. For several decades in the early to mid-1900s, federal law required all Aboriginal children aged 7 to 15 to attend Indian Residential Schools. This aspect of the 1857 “Gradual Assimilation Act” was strictly – sometimes brutally – enforced. RCMP, priests and Indian agents literally tore children from their parents’ arms, and sent them away to distant schools run by the Catholic or United Church, where the children were forbidden to speak their own languages or hug their own siblings. Most students found the experience traumatic, to say the least. Few of them ever did assimilate into the larger society.

In the 1980s, former residential school students began disclosing that they had endured physical and sexual abuse at the schools. The Assembly of First Nations struck a task force that reported in 2005, “There are approximately 87,000 residential schools survivors still alive in Canada. The average age of survivors is 57 years old. The government has an ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ process in place, but at the current pace it will take 53 years to settle all claims, at a cost to Canadian taxpayers of $2.3 billion dollars in administrative and legal expenses alone.” Instead of waiting 53 years, the AFN launched a class action suit on behalf of the survivors.

Under the class action settlement reached in 2006, every Indian Residential School survivor is eligible to receive a Common Experiences payment of $10,000, plus $3000 for each year of school, and to be individually assessed for more benefits. In addition, there are funds for commemorating what happened, for an Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Copyright Penney Kome

Part of this story was adapted by Penney Kome from her original piece in 2009 in Alberta’s Legacy magazine, no longer in existence.


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Nice Guys Don’t Go Looking

PENNEY KOME
September, 2015

0_0_350_0_70_campaign-asia_content_20130708104610_ashley_madisonBig news! The Ashley Madison website lied, and 35 million men  fell for it. Married men who told themselves they were willing to risk everything for a quick guilt-free fling, now find out just how much they’ve risked. Two suicides might be linked to the hack! That’s dramatic. That bleeds, so that story leads. But there’s another story here too.

Women avoided Ashley Madison like the plague. They not only spotted the duplicity, they rejected the premise.  And their refusal to be unfaithful undercuts generations of male excuses for violence against women.

Ashley Madison staff faked almost all of the 5.5 million women’s accounts. Only 12,000 women at most ever signed up for Ashley Madison, and most of them never activated their accounts, if indeed they were real.  The huge disparity is more than just proof of the obvious, that men’s hormones regularly lead them into trouble. Contrary to male claims, serial infidelity is rarely a two-way street. Centuries of men have justified bad behaviour by claiming,  “I know she’s been cheating, I just can’t prove it.” That’s the cry of every Western wife-beater, every stalker, every womanizer.

Now the proof is in. They’re wrong. With 35 million men for the choosing, men who said up front that they were willing to cheat and lie to their closest loved ones – a whole world of women yawned and stayed away.

Let’s leave aside for the moment, the various holy books cited as “proof” that women are licentious. Some men have an infallible method of detecting licentious women. They feel a stirring in their loins. (Of course, they may feel their loins stirring other times too, like first thing in the morning. That’s just guy stuff.)  Controlling women seems easier to them – and more necessary – than controlling their own semi-autonomous appendage.

In guy talk, women are so powerful, that even if the woman isn’t present, the affair is still her fault. I googled “cheating wife” and got 788 million hits, of which most of the first five pages linked to punitive sounding articles, such as Husband Gets Revenge On Cheating Wife By Inserting Hot Curling Iron In Her Vagina. Conversely, my search on the phrase “cheating husband” yielded only 780 million  hits, and most of the stories on the first five pages actually blamed the wife if a husband strays. Take reality TV star  Josh Duggar’s wife. The scandal-mongering UK Daily Mail’s take was “Anna Duggar ‘partially blames herself’ for husband Josh cheating and using porn – while her mother-in-law Michelle’s top marriage tip is to NOT deny your spouse sex.”

My own experience, FWIW, is while wives as well as husbands may have reason to feel neglected and taken for granted, wives tend to find other ways to get their strokes.  Frank Pittman’s classic 1993 Psychology Today article draws a useful distinction between “romantic affairs,” which happen to both sexes, and “philanderers.”

“Both genders seem equally capable of falling into the temporary insanity of romantic affairs,” wrote Pittman, “though women are more likely to reframe anything they do as having been done for love. Women in love are far more aware of what they are doing and what the dangers might be. Men in love can be extraordinarily incautious and willing to give up everything. Men in love lose their heads—at least for a while….”

Romantic affairs tend to take place between people who already know each other. Their eyes meet across a crowded boardroom, or house renovation site,  or a party, sparks fly, and before they know it, they’re renting a room. Rarely do people go looking for romantic affairs. The people who registered on Ashley Madison, though, are seeking a different kind of affair.

“…Philandering is a predominantly male activity,” wrote Frank Pittman. “Philanderers take up infidelity as a hobby. Philanderers are likely to have a rigid and concrete concept of gender; they worship masculinity, and while they may be greatly attracted to women, they are mostly interested in having the woman affirm their masculinity.

“They don’t really like women, and they certainly don’t want an equal, intimate relationship with a member of the gender they insist is inferior, but far too powerful. They see women as dangerous, since women have the ability to assess a man’s worth, to measure him and find him wanting, to determine whether he is man enough….”

As Margaret Atwood has written, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid  that men will kill them.”  Behind Ashley Madison’s financial success lies a male urban myth that a great many women are philanderers too. Psychologists have long denied and refuted this myth. The Ashley Madison case should pretty well scorch it to the earth – but not if the focus remains on the men’s dilemma, rather than what they were trying to do.  Guys like the men on AM’s list get away with philandering because they are rich and powerful.

In another, more apologist study of male cheating, Live Science editor Jeanna Bryner reviewed the year 2009: “Like years past, this one has been a whopper for high-profile philanderers,” she wrote. “Psychologists aren’t surprised, as guys are wired to want sex, a lot, and are more likely than gals to cheat. The behavior may be particularly likely for men with power, researchers say, though they point out that despite the genetic propensity to sleep around, cheating remains a choice, not a DNA-bound destiny…. Even if their brains did register the infidelities, high-profile philanderers have so much power and control over their lives they likely couldn’t imagine getting caught, scientists say. And with past as their guide (wins on the links for Tiger Woods and the Hill for John Edwards), even if they did get caught, they could control the fallout and stay on top….”

If powerful men at the top of society behave this way, seems to me that the philanderer’s perception of women has a strong influence on our society’s prevailing view of women. And the Psychology Today article says that philandering is probably culturally, not genetically, transmitted.

“Philanderers may be the sons of philanderers, or they may have learned their ideas about marriage and gender from their ethnic group or inadvertently from their religion,” wrote Frank Pittman. “Somewhere they have gotten the idea that their masculinity is their most valuable attribute and it requires them to protect themselves from coming under female control. These guys may consider themselves quite principled and honorable, and they may follow the rules to the letter in their dealings with other men. But in their world women have no rights.  To men they may seem normal, but women experience them as narcissistic or even sociopathic. They think they are normal, that they are doing what every other real man would do if he weren’t such a wimp….”

Philanderers justify their actions by blaming women: they’re always complaining about their wives, girlfriends, or mothers, or that bitch in the office. Or they simply hire women that they can dispose of, one way or another. And their justifications are strong enough in male terms that other men often wink and look away, or even help them cover up. There’s a whole canon of hip-hop,  blues and Country & Western songs dedicated to spreading the philanderer’s doctrine that “She done me wrong.” This is a very common defence mechanism. “Men who are cheating will try anything to avoid taking responsibility for their wrong behavior,” explains the website Guystuffcounseling.com, “and re-writing history and blaming others is one of the best ways to do that.”

Google delivered 788 million hits on “philanderer,” mostly warnings under the term, “womanizer.”  Women have been trying to warn other women for generations. We’re hearing similar warnings from men now that we’re in a social media age.  Here’s an interesting essay signed Angelo Gage, about how he became a pick-up artist in mid-life, and measured his worth by the notches on his bedpost. After losing a girlfriend of three years (“one of the few times I was actually a loyal partner”), he looked at himself in the mirror. .”.. I realized that I wasn’t a man; I was a small boy trying to prove how much of a man I was by acting on my animalistic urges to conquer women like I was a king expanding his empire across the globe. It was at this moment when my life once again changed for the better.

“Being a man isn’t about how many women you sleep with or how ‘cool’ you are when you sleep with a hot, unattainable girl in your social circle and then brag about the deed to your friends, nor is it about how much money you have, or any materialistic measure of success for that matter. It is about being a provider, protector, a leader of people.

“How was I providing, protecting, or leading any of these women other than to my bed room to have sex? How was I doing any good when most of these ‘conquests’ eventually became strangers or enemies and were no longer a part of my life;  always leaving one of us hurt in the process? Was I any different than a drug addict, being addicted to the conquest of women?…”

Consider CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. Now awaiting trial on abuse charges, for years he was widely suspected of being at least a womanizer. Carl Wilson, Slate’s music critic, wrote an article in second-person (“you thought you were a nice guy”) about how he managed to ignore all the rumours while working in the same field and crossing paths regularly with Ghomeshi.

“Despite what you knew, when you were invited on Jian’s show, you went. And went again. Though you found his manner slick and off-putting, you were friendly with him. You played nice. You never saw each other socially, but you chatted. His interview style sometimes seemed patronizing, particularly with female guests; you were surprised so much of the audience found him charming, rather than smarmy. Then again, he was always well-prepared and well-scripted.

“The banter about Jian’s annoying pick-up-artist persona continued. One summer evening at a Toronto outdoor indie-rock festival, a friend was tipsy, talking about him a bit loudly, when you noticed Jian right behind you, holding a beer. You shushed her. You nodded hi and hoped he hadn’t heard, because you wanted to continue being invited on the show. Which you were….”

In retrospect, Wilson realizes, instead of despising Ghomeshi, he despised the victims:  “The worst thing, you realize, is that you tended to look down on Jian’s conquests. As if anyone who fell for his come-ons was a fool, instead of merely lacking the advantage of inside knowledge.

“No wonder the women didn’t hope to be taken seriously. No wonder most filed no grievances, and none of them laid charges, nor spoke out in public, until they learned they were not alone. They expected not to be believed, and worse, that they would be hounded and humiliated—and the way many Q fans have treated them on social media proves them right. Neither did they trust the legal system, for good reason.  A lot of your older male journalist friends don’t get that: ‘Why not go to court?’ they say on Twitter.”

Wilson uses a very pertinent word: complicity. He asks whether his silence made him complicit with Ghomeshi’s abuse, and it’s a fair question. Like the passive bystanders who give an abuser tacit consent, news media are also often complicit, out of carelessness. Sex sells, as they say, especially with a titillated news media already chained to celebrating any commercial success. Media tut-tutted over 50 Shades of Gray but they covered it massively.

But then we journalists like shiny new things. Give us a slick salesman with a provocative title like, “Cheaters Prosper,” the title of Ashley Madison owner Noel Biderman’s book, and the author is bound for months of invitations to talk shows and even newscasts. The book itself sank quickly, maybe because it was so poorly produced, as is apparent in the promotion material. “Cheaters Prosper is the first book of it s [sic] kind that has fearlessly and accurately explored the decent [sic] of the modern marriage to the point where we really have to question what the true foundations of a marriage are and how we can correct our current course. The reader will be transported to other cultures where infidelity is rampant and yet divorce is virtually non-existent. Unedited insight of the motivations behind infidelity is published for the first time, as is [sic] the true results of infidelity discovered.”

Presumably Biderman talks better than he writes, because for a while he was the media go-to expert on infidelity. (Think of it: had Canada left prostitution decriminalized, it would have been a day’s work to add a new section to AM for escort agencies. Biderman had the punters lined up already. He could have been the new paid-sex go-to person too.)  His real message, though, was trying to persuade women to sign on to AM.  But apparently, women of the world have heard his line before.

Noel Biderman’s case offers a view of the “descent” to which men will go, to justify atrocious behaviour towards women. Moreover, his clumsiness has revealed actual statistics. Some 35 million philanderers, mainly in the Americas and UK,  have inadvertently identified themselves to the public. That could be the punter’s client list of the century but for women it would be the “Bad Date” list of the Millennium. Although the number sounds daunting, remember that there are nearly a billion people in the Americas alone.  But the aggressive cad, er, lad often has more influence than the rest, by being more outspoken, decisive, and dismissive of any other point of view. So far, the majority of men have not stirred themselves to speak up when other men disparage the women in their lives.

Media seem fixated on the philanderer’s narrative, about unsatisfactory wives and innocent husbands just taking the first flyer of their lives. True, of course, millions of men rue the day they ever heard the name, “Ashley Madison,” or let themselves be sucked into paying money to join, let alone supplying their names and contact information. Who could have guessed that the nice man lied when he promised endless free sex? And now all these guys are caught with their information hanging out in public. Just like the imaginary women they hoped to meet, just like the media, they’ve been pimped.

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

References:

“Anna Duggar ‘partially blames herself’ for husband Josh cheating and using porn – while her mother-in-law Michelle’s top marriage tip is to NOT deny your spouse sex,” UK Daily Mail:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3205403/Anna-Duggar-partially-blames-husband-Josh-cheating-using-porn-mother-law-Michelle-s-marriage-tip-NOT-deny-spouse-sex.html

Husband Gets Revenge On Cheating Wife By Inserting Hot Curling Iron In Her Vagina, Crimefeed: http://crimefeed.com/2015/08/man-sexually-abuses-disabled-wife-hot-curling-iron-cheating-50-years-ago/

Beyond Betrayal, by Frank Pittman, Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/beyond-betrayal-life-after-infidelity

Why Do Men Cheat and Blame Their Partner, Guy Stuff: http://www.guystuffcounseling.com/counseling-men-blog/bid/86041/Why-Do-Men-Cheat-Blame-Their-Partner

Confessions of a Womanizer, Elite Daily, by Angelo Gage: http://elitedaily.com/dating/gentlemen/confessions-womanizer/

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/the-man-canada-couldnt-keep-out-pickup-artist-unbowed-despite-public-condemnation-over-lectures

“I knew about Jian Ghomeshi” by Carl Wilson, National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/carl-wilson-i-knew-about-jian-ghomeshi-and-never-said-anything-am-i-complicit-in-his-alleged-abuse

Noel Biderman Resigns, Calgary Herald: http://www.calgaryherald.com/technology/Ashley+Madison+Noel+Biderman+resigns+week+after+hackers+release/11324295/story.html

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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