Tag Archives: Politics

We Create Polite Society

When I first ran across Gamergate, I thought it was a joke. It had to be. What kind of person gets upset when women get better representation in video games? Also, there was no evidence that the game industry was under any kind of threat from governments, feminists, or anyone else. It’s not like you got stopped at the airport for carrying a play station vita or anything like that.

The more I heard about Gamergate, the more dismayed I became. The harassment, the doxxing, and the terror threats were bad enough. What really crushed my faith in humanity was that so many more people were willing to believe that all of the threats against female developers were just a fabrication of a vast feminist conspiracy. One or two deranged wackos is one thing, but to have thousands of people building and supporting the narrative that makes all this insanity possible? It makes you want to quit the internet entirely.

If only it were that easy. Last week we saw the results of another internet-borne narrative with the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. ISIS, the terrorist group claiming ties to the attack, is famous for its internet video propaganda, which media outlets are only too happy to spread.

So what can we do? If we start banning speech from the internet, we go back on our most basic democratic values. If we just let people listen to stuff like this, they can just stay in their echo chamber until shooting up a newspaper sounds like a great idea.

The only thing we can do is make more speech. Make OUR speech. The thing that Gamergate and ISIS have in common is that they both used the internet, the most advanced communication system in history, to make themselves heard. And the key word here is USED. They created forums, tweets, youtube videos, wikis, anything and everything possible to make sure that their word was the only one out there.

We have these tools too. We simply choose not to use them. Maybe it’s a lack of technical expertise. Maybe we tell ourselves that we have better things to do. Maybe we are just afraid no one will hear us. The truth is that when we post online, even if it’s something simple like “I like artsy Japanese video games”, we create knowledge. In this case, I am acknowledging the existence of artsy Japanese video games, and that I, being the person that I am, like them. It also creates a safe space, however small, for anyone else who likes artsy Japanese video games.

The point of this is that I am exercising a small bit of control over what other people can see and hear. The reason that movements like Gamergate exist is that their members produce enough content for someone to get completely immersed in their message. If we are creating our own messages that carry our own values, we can break that immersion. Media is not just for consumption any more. We decide what is on our screens now. We control the values, we control the content, and we create polite society.

Oslo and Other Shootings: The Debate on Mental health

Auburn, Washington State. A lone gunman opens fire in a local casino, wounding 7.

Grand Prairie, Texas. One man draws a gun at a children’s birthday party at a roller rink. 6 dead, 4 wounded.

Oslo, Norway. After setting off several car bombs near the Prime Minister’s office, a solo perpetrator makes his way to a Labour Party Youth Camp on Utøya Island with an assault rifle. 76 people dead, 96 wounded.

It’s the same story that’s been repeated for years. A lone X attacks Y armed with a Z. A dead and B wounded. Solve for X. We just had three of them in the space of a week, and it wasn’t even a full moon. The aftermath is usually the same. The candlelight vigils, the scholarships and charities set up in the victims’ names, not to mention the filing away at civil liberties to prevent future attacks. There might be some debate over the death penalty, if the attacker didn’t have the courtesy to end his own life. For all the anguish that these attacks cause, very little is done to tackle their only common thread. I’m talking, of course, about Mental Health.

These shooters are crazy. It’s not really a debate. They act alone or in small groups. They are often described as quiet and isolated. There are sometimes manifestos, blog posts, and youtube videos discovered after the fact showing just how bad their mental health was.

Why can’t we stop them at this stage, before they take out scores of people with them?

The short answer is the Law. If we could just call up the men in the white coats on someone, it would infringe on a host of civil liberties that make a modern society possible.

However, there is a lot more that we could do for our collective mental health that doesn’t involve Nurse Ratched or lobotomies. We could be checking up on people, making sure they have a connection with the community. We can identify problems and either speak to the person or contact someone who could help. Even perfectly mentally healthy people could get checked up once a year to establish a mental health baseline.

The problem with this is that there is no polite way to do it. You can talk to Miss Manners, Ann Landers, or Dan Savage, if we want to try to get people any kind of mental health, you committing the ultimate dinner party faux pax. It’s not even as simple as a stigma against the mentally ill. No one looks twice if you go to a physician, but If you see a therapist, you are immediately sick until proven healthy! Even if you swallow your pride and decide to bring a fruit basket to the overgrown house down the street, how can you keep from embarrassing yourself? How do THEY keep from embarrassing themselves?

These random acts of violence are becoming a standard hazard in industrialized nations. We’ve focused so much on promoting individuality over society that we have no tools to keep people from shooting up a mall if they really want to. Mental health is still a poorly understood field, but we can’t just cower in fear waiting for the next attack. We have to make our understanding a priority and establish a new social framework. New manners will be chartered and polite boundaries will be redrawn. I’m not sure what form this new society will take, but the debate has to start now.

Think Like a Stakeholder

The Bloc may have been Orange Crushed, the Green Party may finally have a seat, and the Liberals may be sitting in a corner thinking about what they did, but I get the sense that most of my friends are angry about last night’s election of a Conservative Majority.

It might have been the low voter turnout, it might have been the Liberal Party Platform of “Hey, what are you going to do, vote conservative?”, but Conservative Majority is a reality, and no amount of calling Harper a robot or “Bush Jr.” is going to change that. Calls for electoral reform only dissuade us from the real problem, which is that my generation does not understand the Conservative mindset.

I really think that we have this image of the CPC that’s made of more ideology than reality. We talk about Conservatives like they are an irrational race of hairy barbarians who enjoy beating anything smaller than themselves with hockey sticks. They want to divide up the country among the rich and powerful, destroy the environment, and execute mentally handicapped criminals. Any intellectuals, poor people and minorities who have a problem with that can suck it.

We take this view at face value and yet we ignore anything that conflicts with it. Why would they be popular with low-income voters if they only serve the rich? Could it be because they keep trying to lower taxes and make home ownership more affordable?

The Liberals and the NDP have been praised for offering us “Freedom from” policies. Like freedom from poverty, health care, or child care costs. While the Conservatives are determined to take away those policies, they want to instead offer ownership stakes. The idea is that if you own your own piece of Canada, you’ll work harder to make it a better place. Is this a better offer? Can the other parties match it?

Until we can fully appreciate what goes through the heads of the politicians and voters that have made up this government, we will be cut out of the national decision making process. Public health care, education and the environment will be subject to the whims of the Conservatives. While they have shown themselves to be capable, by no means do they have a complete picture of how to run this country.

May 2nd is Election Day

I thought Monday was going to be surreal, I had no idea to what degree. There was Harper showing up in Abbotsford of all places for an election rally. The Pollyanna in me wants to believe that he was keeping a former stronghold riding from turning into a battleground, but I know this is where he could count on the most supporters to show up. Then there was this business about Jack Layton getting a massage from an establishment that was under investigation for giving out happy endings. The Harper fans that trotted this out must either be stupid, desperate, or both. This can only mean that they think the NDP, of all the other parties, is actually a threat to their government status.

And then they catch Osama freakin’ Bin-Laden.

It sounds like something you’d slip in to conversation if you think the other person’s not listening. My wife does it sometimes. On the one hand, I’m glad they got him, I’m glad he’s dead so we don’t have to deal with a long and embarrassing trial, but DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

I don’t care if they all seem like the same party, I don’t care if one vote doesn’t matter, and I don’t care if you’re in a stronghold riding like mine. Get out there and show them that you are present. Non-voting is the result of a martyr complex of the worst sort. So your situation, or the country’s, is so bad that no political party could possibly help. By not voting, you are protesting the whole idea of governments and political parties! Your snowflake political opinions are too complex, too nuanced to be summed up in a mere ballot! You might think you’re Che Guevara right there, but no one actually cares if you disengage from the political process. Low voter turnouts only embolden the worst of us to run for office. You can blame the government for not caring about you, but it’s not like you’ve been caring about the government. Your MP probably didn’t even get a stern phone call from you. History is not just written by the winners. It’s written by those who choose to participate in it. Be present this May 2nd and Vote.

Craigslist Vancouver: Deadbeat Police Scanner?!

Try this if you want to see something interesting. Go to the Vancouver Craigslist page, and go to the search page. Enter “Re:” in the search bar, select “search in post only” and select the “jobs” option. What you’ll find, among a few Remax ads, are vitriolic, profanity laden replies to some of the Help Wanted ads. I’ve subscribed to the search via RSS, and it’s like I’m getting the Weekly World news of the BC business world. There are stories of employers paying sub-standard wages or not paying at all, treating employees poorly, or bilking customers out of their money. All the dirt that’s fit to print.

I thought that this was just the usual grousing that came out of any big city. This is not so. I tried the same search in New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and they did not have nearly the volume of complaints that Vancouver did. Toronto and Montreal were more like Vancouver, but Calgary and Edmonton were curiously silent. It wasn’t an exhaustive survey by any means, but this raises some fascinating questions about Canada and its economy. Does this mean there are more poor and disgruntled people in Canada? Are employers cheaper on average here? Do we just have a better grip on how to use a computer? Is this a cultural thing?

Whatever the answer is, this trend is a mystery too big to ignore. Does anyone out there know what this means?