Friday, September 27, 2013

Racist Man Looking for Love

Sleepless in Austin might be a lifelong insomniac after a controversial offer of $1500 to anyone who can find him a thin, chaste, white girlfriend. You'd think that wouldn't be a very tall order, but Romeo Rose, who claims that this is his real name, has some outspoken views on race and interracial relationships. To add to his charm, he also doesn't like 'slutty' girls or 'fat' girls.

Now this is a man who knows what he wants.

Thin, chaste, white- it would probably also be safe to assume that the successful candidate will be a Christian, right winger, domestically-minded and probably hot. Unfortunately, the profile that Romeo Rose provided is centered mostly on exclusions, ie, the things that he hates and doesn't highlight any of the things that he loves, which actually makes sense when you consider that hate is probably a big part of this man's life. Wouldn't it be natural that he would scour the world looking for someone who hates everything he hates too? Isn't that part of what makes compatibility?

Somewhere out there, on this planet of 6 billion people, there must be at least one lonely single white female who's looking for a man that shares her views of a segregated, white supremacist world. The kind who can keep their whites the whitest for their KKK meetings, who separates the white bread from the brown bread when it's time to make bologna sandwiches for lunch. The kind who loves being white and loves being in love. The kind who wants to build a home on the foundation of their natural-born superiority and nestle together in a little hate nest somewhere.

Never fear Sleepless; even Hitler found love after vetting his dates by running their hair through fire to make sure they were truly Aryan. And what could be more romantic than a geneological quiz on your racial purity on a first date? Or a deep, embarassing look into your sexual history to ensure that all your past hook ups were lily white? Or better yet, a weigh in for pure white candidates who don't live up to the distinction of 'thin'. After all, white girls can diet, even if they can't change their pigmentation. Unless they get jaundice from a carrot juice fast that they submit to in order to please him, at which point, they may be too Asian.

A matchmaker once said that everyone deserves love. But in the meantime, it looks like hate is going to have to keep this man warm.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A few thoughts on Quebec Separation

Without knowing it, I became political pretty early on in my life. I grew up in an English minority Quebec town during the last Quebec Referendum, and I remember well how the topic of Quebec sovereignty dominated classrooms, grocery check out lines and dinner tables. I remember my half Irish cousins demanding to be served in both official languages even when in small Quebec towns and the amount of public servants talking about having to take 'stupid French lessons' to advance in their career. The political was very personal.

'Separation' to me always brought forth ridiculous images of toll booths on the inter provincial bridges, something tangible and silly since Ontario, that other province, was within a stone's throw. Border crossing was something my parents did every day, usually on the way to work. The thought of this becoming a passport check was always strange, and even without understanding the full implications of government at the time, I knew that this was a problem.

Government for me at that age was a chart composed of boxes representing various levels- the Parliament, the Senate, the provinces, etc. But then came the awareness that government affects pretty much everything you do: where you work, what you eat, what you drive, your health and welfare, your daily choices. I've heard those people who say 'politics don't affect me' or 'politics don't interest me' and you're wrong on both counts; everything is political, everything affects you and everything SHOULD interest you. Unless you're a mindless slug, it all matters.

That point was driven home by the Referendum. My father told me his story of immigrating to Canada through Quebec City, and how he remembers mounting all of those stairs to get into the province to start his new life in Canada. It's a poignant image of the dedication and sheer work that it takes to make a new beginning and he has never looked back since. The thought of seeing his Canada disappear through a crucial vote upset him.

My parents weren't the only people upset by this vision. Businesses left Quebec in droves, as did other immigrants and anglophones who imagined a troubled province, should the vote go through. Does anyone remember how the house prices crashed during the Referendum? Does anyone remember the mass exodus of businesses, most of whom simply shipped to Toronto? Does anyone outside of Montreal remember this?

If the current situation in Quebec veers back in the direction of the Referendum of the 1990s, they can count on a lot of those things happening again. Unrest, departures and economic crash are just a couple of the concerns they should have. Beyond that, they should also consider the very real and dangerous implications of the proposed Quebec Values Charter. It's a slippery slope when you begin to protect culture through discrimination. Today it's religious symbols, but what will it be tomorrow? What else will be perceived as 'ostentatious' or a threat to Quebecois culture? Who else is going to be a problem group?

Quebec is taking a lot of its cues from France, a country not known for its diversity or tolerance. A lot of France's cultural protectionists are now setting their eyes on China and similar Asian countries that are seen to be 'taking over' the global economy. Will Quebec take a page from that song book as well, and start denouncing Asian symbols? True, most Asians don't run around with 'ostentatious' marks of their 'Asianness' on them, but will people be offended by Asian writing characters on t-shirts, silk dresses, chopsticks in the hair, Hello Kitty bags?

What about 'black' culture? Will the next roll out of ostentatiousness include dreads? A young straight A student in the USA has already been sent home for violating the school dress code by wearing dreads. It may not be threatening, but it does seem inherently not Quebecois purelaine. The line is pretty hard to tell between protecting and promoting the culture, and outright surpressing and eliminating the other.

What frightens me most about the possible aftermath of a separatist Quebec the way it stands now is that an insular Quebec will one day actively root out all the un-Quebec things within it. Its focus on maintaining its culture may come at the cost of the expulsion of others. I fear that the good people of Quebec will simply leave the province, unwilling to stay and fight, unwilling to see their tax dollars promote cultural exclusion and pursue a separatist agenda.

It may appear too early or over-reactionary to think these things, but history has shown that cultural preservation can often give way to the notion of cultural and racial purity. This is not a sign to ring all the alarm bells, but maybe a sign to ring at least one.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Many Means More

I don't understand why people think multiculturalism has failed. There are proponents of this thinking, such as Angela Merkel of Germany and more recently, Pauline Marois of Quebec. But what exactly constitutes as failure? They point to the loss of traditional cultural values and identity, as well as violent enclaves and the always fear-mongering idea of conversion, dissent and possibly takeover.

But what about all the things that multiculturalism has given us? For many Canadians, multiculturalism is a big part of the Canadian fabric. What do I love most about Canada? Multiculturalism, hockey, our ability to laugh at ourselves, humility, comedy and our universal health care system. All of these things are, to me, a part of our values, this idea that we don't have to be scared of another, that we can learn from each other and we all have rights, regardless of race, religion or gender. That's what the Canadian dream really is, not the ability to own a microwave or identify icing. Human rights. Respect. Dignity. Peace.

Wouldn't it be terrible to live in a world without diversity? Isn't part of the joy of living in Canada the ability to go down the street and hear or see something new or different? Whatever happened to embracing difference? What ever happened to curiosity and opening up our minds to another culture, recognizing that the world is diverse and that there are many different ways to see the very same things?

The most tangible example of what multiculturarism gives us: food. Delicious, diverse, exotic food. Maybe some people enjoy eating the same ham and cheese sandwich every day, but how much richer are we for the fact of having lots of restaurants? Some countries make incredible food. In one week, you can go for Italian, Chinese, Jamaican, you name it. They may not all be authentic, but everyone understands the common language of delicious.

And then there's language. Language is more than just the spoken word. It's a way of perceiving the world. Some cultures have words that others could never imagine, because they reflect ideas that are most relevant to them. What is more mind boggling than learning a new language and a new way of being? It's stimulating and exciting, not something to be feared. And it's a challenge. People with emotional maturity, perspective and intelligence see challenge as a good thing.

And what about fashion? Clothes are a big part of self expression and creativity. The world would be a dull place without colours. It's good to see people wear ironic t-shirts, silk saris, weaves and pigtails, colourful scarves. Jeans and t-shirts could be made the official clothes of the human race, but there would always be someone doing it differently, mixing it up with a red scarf or ripping the jeans. We don't need to be the same.

Even exposure to other religions is a good thing, as long as they're treated respectfully and presented with context. People should question their beliefs system, people should think about what faith means to them personally. Most people blindly follow the system that they're raised with, or in absence of that, never ask if they have a faith. The blind followers are nowhere near as devout as the educated child who questions and then chooses whether or not to believe. Your faith is only as strong as you make it, and choosing makes it stronger still.

Multiculturalism works and if it has 'failed', it's because we have failed it. If we fail to believe, to approach things from a rational and mature point of view, or come to the table with closed minds, then it's us who have failed, and not multiculturalism. Multi means many, and that means more- more problems, more work, more explanations needed, more time cultivating and adapting. We can do it. We have done it. We fail when we abandon it.