Archive for Rant

A footnote, so to speak:

Being an idealist doesn’t mean ignoring pragmatic concerns.

Having ideal goals is important, and it may take two, twenty, two hundred, or even two thousand years to get the pendulum swinging back the other way (by which time it might be too late anyway, but what the hell). Revolution is probably impractical if the masses are not ready for it and it doesn’t matter how enlightened any vanguard party is. If the masses are taught, gradually (because that’s typically the only way it can be done), to reflect upon their condition and take action, then the need for immediate revolutions is largely eradicated. (My problem is that right now, things aren’t even going in that direction — they seem to be moving largely toward apathy and the endless cycle of the rat race.)

I’m an idealist, but I’m also a realist. I have my long-term goals and principles in mind but I also acknowledge the lack of fit or feasibility and am routinely ready, willing and able to work within pragmatic parameters to nevertheless try and reach the end goal — which I do not give up sight of, bhale kitnee bhi der lagay.

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Clarifications on no man’s land.

I think it would be useful for me to make some clarifications on my post down there.

I don’t think I’m capable of “giving up” — but I am capable of becoming lethargic from disillusionment, taking forever to get things done. That’s already happened as I haven’t taken concrete action on some issues pertaining to ASSU this winter, which (though I didn’t really have much time this winter pursuing other goals, such as comics, and dealing with family issues, like visiting New Jersey) I could have focused on.

Ultimately, I am a romantic — a hopeless romantic. Idealism is sometimes impractical, and to be idealistic is often to wish impossible things.

One of my goals has been to see a significant portion of the student body to move around a significant issue.

But it seems to me that the vast majority of students are either too apathetic or too passive or too disenchanted or too disillusioned to attempt to affect any kind of change.

Perhaps it’s an issue of leadership. I remember at a meeting of the Council of Student Unions (where I typically represent ASSU), voting on endorsing a tuition freeze movement. I wanted to amend the statement to read something like endorsing the tuition freeze as a “positive step toward the eventual elimination of tuition fees.” This didn’t seem to go well with anyone else there (two Vice-Presidents of SAC, the President of VUSAC, and a representative from St. Mike’s whose name I’ve managed to forget, as well as a representative from the Faculty of Music — although Paul, President of SAC, was there and maybe would’ve supported the principle of elimination, he was quite literally checking up on the pizza while this particular discussion came to take place). It really struck me that student leaders were unwilling to pass a resolution endoring the tuition freeze as a positive step toward the eventual elimination of tuition — this being a resolution that no one will give a damn about anyway (not the Varsity, not the university, no one but perhaps overzealous conservatives and right-leaning Liberals trying to discredit leftists as impractical).

Perhaps it’s because of the issues on hand. Most of them are long-term, it takes a while to get things implemented. Something immediate like tuition, while many students do feel strongly about it (but not strongly enough to take action it because they can get by), seems to be unstoppable — hence, any resistance would be stereotypically futile.

There also seems to be a general sense of malaise as far as activism is concerned. We’re at university to get an education, but that’s all it’s about now. Getting the marks and getting the extracurriculars on our resumes, and spending the rest of the time doing inane and random things. The focus has been shifted from getting the government to get things done, to doing things by one’s self. Hence, rather than kicking the government for not moving on social housing, one may join Habitat for Humanity. I’m not criticizing the latter, not in the least, I have a great deal of admiration for folks involved in that, and reference my several posts criticizing myself instead for my lack of action as far as that is concerned. But kicking at the government is an important part of this, and while the leadership of organizations does seem to focus toward this, the rank and file don’t seem to digest it.

Many other students don’t seem to care even about that. It’s more about the iPod and the boots, or something. The focus has been shifted from being a nonconformist for the sake of getting things done to becoming a nonconformist to conform to popular notions of nonconformism, hence really becoming a conformist anyway. Conformity or lack thereof should be a matter of ideas and action, not just clothing and accessories. (The only reason I have a Che t-shirt is because someone gave it to me as a gift, not because I actively seeked one.)

Lobbying has taken precedence over direct activism, and while lobbying may make some difference it should be conceded that our lobby is nowhere near as effective as, say, the auto insurance or oil industries’ because we don’t have money. (One of my gimmicks as I campaigned for SAC to get students to vote in the tution referendum was to tell people that there are only two things politicians listen to: money, and votes — putting up my index and middle finger respectively — and that since we don’t have the money, we should give them the votes — putting down my index finger and leaving my middle finger up.) But we do have numbers, if we choose to mobilize those numbers. Like the students in Quebec did last year.

It was remarkable, I wanted to move to Quebec at that stage. It was inspiring. I wrote an article on it, that was published in the Varsity in a hastily-edited (not by me) format, and rather than responding to the substance of what I wrote, people largely criticized my style (because the opinions editor managed to leave out some integral parts of my article, like the thesis). The mainstream media largely ignored the Quebec student strikes and pretended they didn’t exist or barely mattered, but this was the largest mobilization of students and unions since the sixties.

Many of the students who are involved politically are partisan hacks (including several student leaders). Whether this hackery be for the Liberals (who seem to have the largest hack to member ratio I’ve ever empirically experienced), the NDP or the Conservatives. Being a party ideologue may be fine as long as that party conforms to your ideology, but once it shifts, or manages to deviate remarkably from your vision, means that you should try to change it while voting for someone else. Being a member of a party isn’t the problem, having blind faith in its ultimate righteousness despite its failings is. If the coat doesn’t fit or is falling apart, you have it repaired and wear another coat for a while.

I don’t usually bother with Conservative hacks because, well, they’re on the other side anyway (that doesn’t mean that they have nothing meaningful to contribute to discussions and debates, or even that their motivation is in the wrong place). But Liberal and NDP hacks really get me ticking. The Liberal party has become something that is anything but liberal, and is in fact difficult to distinguish from the Conservative party (except on certain human rights issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion). Nevertheless people refuse to see this.

In looking at all of these things, I’ve also seen my role in not doing much about it. For instance, I don’t call my MPP and MP every week (not that it would make much a difference, living in Markham) to complain about poverty or education, although I’ll join the occasional protest and wear buttons to improve the lot of Sodexho workers. But I really don’t do much beyond that.

I haven’t tried to reach out to others to build the kind of consensus needed to get the ball rolling on a mass movement (I wouldn’t know how to begin). And getting a massive student movement going, even a year from now, is most probably something impossible. El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido is simply my mythology. “To wish impossible things,” as the Cure once sang.

More on this later, maybe.

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University bureaucrats.

Sometimes I believe that they hire university bureaucrats at a moron convention. This is slightly different from the idiot convention from where they get politicians. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many university bureaucrats and politicians are practically interchangeable (consider that many folks wanted to appoint Bob Rae as the President of UofT).

Recently, I received an e-mail from a UofT Arts & Science student about a problem he was facing with the bureaucracy. He was running late for an exam because of the TTC, and having arrived he placed his pencil case on his desk and began to write his essay exam. The pencil case contained a calculator. One of the invigilators, who had gone around his desk several times finally spotted it and accused him of possessing an unauthorized aid. The calculator was confiscated.

The student had brought the calculator to school in the first place to study for an exam he had the next day which would require the use of a calculator. Now that it was confiscated, it would be difficult for him to study or to write the exam.

The university bureaucracy, when he talked to them about it, told him that he had brought in an unauthorized aid to his essay exam, and that he could reclaim it by a) admitting that he’d brought an unauthorized aid, b) admitting he took it back, c) agreeing to have it appear on his transcript for six months/meeting with the Dean’s designate for disciplinary measures.

What’s absurd is that there is no way possible that the calculator could be used as an aid of any kind on an essay exam, and even the presiding instructor who created the exam said this. To me, it’s no different than taking your digital watch off and putting it on the table — something many of us have done on several occasions.

Nevertheless, the bureaucrats are sticking behind this. This student, and I give him credit for this, refused to admit that he had brought an unauthorized aid, and is going to meet with the Dean’s designate to discuss this issue. I wish him all the best.

It frustrates me tremendously that this kind of unnecessary action is being undertaken. Apparently, these bureaucrats have nothing better to do with their time, and so are taking upon these kinds of trivial issues — that can have an immense impact on the transcript of a student (particularly if he or she wants to use it to apply for research or other positions). If deterrence is truly their intent then this is not the way to do it. It’s stupid and inane.

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Right now I feel kind of inept.

Emotionally, intellectually, my spirit: inept.

I met an acquaintance today (well, yesterday), after two years — he was in my Lord of the Rings course — and he told me about how he’d transferred to York. University of Toronto is shit, he told me, compared to York. The professors actually care about you, the courses are designed to help you learn, not to make you burn. The level of difficulty isn’t necessarily easier, he said, it’s the way York treats you — indeed, it treats you as a human being, a person. If the purpose of a university education is learning, then the University of Toronto has broken it, just like it has broken the spirits of several students who have come here. He went on about it for a while.

I really have no reference point when it comes to the University of Toronto and comparing it to other institutions. Well, not until I met this guy. Sure, the evidence is anecdotal, but hot damn — what the fuck.

I looked back at my two years on ASSU and I tried to pull out tangible things that I or we have brought through to make things better for the students. Academically. I found none. Nothing new, nothing improved. ASSU, in the last two years — to my recollection — has accomplished squat. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m missing something. Yes, of course, there was the time I got the Dean to apologize to BIO250 students. Then the other times I’ve gotten into tiffs with instructors/lecturers/professors for all kinds of reasons. But other than that? I really don’t know. Perhaps being able to maintain the status quo is something. I think? I don’t know. We tell ourselves to take solace in our little victories, and that’s nice, but have we really moved ourselves to accomplish something big? I’m sitting here and I’m thinking that ASSU can be so much more, but I feel like I’m devoid of ideas.

If I’m devoid of ideas, I’m devoid of action. Where do the ideas come from? Everyone. But for that, you need communication and I don’t see that. There needs to be a regularized channel of communication. Apparently, that’s what course unions in ASSU are for. To keep the Executive’s ear to the ground, so that we can all pool our resources and effect some change. But that doesn’t happen. I don’t see it happening. I see that it might happen, but we really need something for that.

I don’t think it takes just one leader. Maybe it does. Maybe it takes a confluence of several leaders, in several positions. I don’t know. We ought to think about these things. How do we make our lives better — the lives of students better? We don’t think. It seems to me that we keep putting things off for an ever-later date. We don’t think. We’re devoid of ideas.

(I’m sorry if these musings seem esoteric or are inaccurate, feel free to ask for clarification or reprimand for correction.)

Recently, there has been a rash of thefts in the lockers that ASSU rents out to students in the basement of Sidney Smith. Things such as laptops and textbooks (incidentally, the one I’ve had tiffs over) have been stolen. Although ASSU has repeatedly asked Campus Police to conduct some sort of investigation, they’ve said that they don’t have the time or resources to do so — because the value of the stolen goods is not large enough, apparently. I don’t think you can base shit on the value of the stolen goods, it has to be based on the relative value. For students, a textbook is a big deal, a laptop is a fortune. If a senior administrator at the University had her car stolen, the Campus Police, I suspect, would be on that buggy like a hungry dog on a scrap of meat. What does it take?

The web site for the Undecided Party of Canada has some thoughtful ideas. It may seem to be a joke site, but don’t be fooled, it addresses some very serious issues and posits some absolutely interesting ideas.

On its about page:

If Conservatives could call themselves Progressive,
If the current federal Liberals can call themselves…Liberal,
If an organization that takes contributions from union dues without requiring the consent of those paying the dues can call itself the New Democratic Party,
And if the Reform Party can go without making any significant reforms, change its name to the Alliance Party without creating any significant alliances, and then drop the Alliance name after negotiating the only important alliance in its short history,

…any misconceptions about the meanings behind the UDP’s name can simply be considered part of the fine tradition of misdirection and manufactured disorientation that defines the political process.

This site is making me reconsider my support for the NDP. I’m half thinking of writing “undecided” on my ballot and spoiling it. I encourage people to become politically active, but when I reflect upon the state of things I feel incredibly discouraged. Most people are dimwits, it seems, in politics. It’s like they have an idiot convention where they pick who’s going to become a politician — liars, assholes, braggarts and all-around fuckheads are in high demand.

I’ll probably end up voting NDP. I’ll probably end up campaigning for the NDP as well. It’s important, I guess. If you can’t really effect change by kicking the shitheads out or being wittily ironical by spoling your ballot, you can at least moderate them by electing less fucked-up people to do something more positive.

This has to be one of the most incoherent and rambling posts I’ve written in a long time. I’ve barely covered half of what’s on my mind. Maybe less. I have an essay due on Wednesday. I have to work on that.

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language is unnatural

i wonder if, four hundred years from now (if humans are still alive), someone reading today’s english will say, “bloody hell, why is this so convoluted?” the same way i’m referring to hobbes’ leviathan as i try to navigate through it now …

sleep would be nice

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Les Québecers are les smarter than les Ontarians pour more reasons than one

What is it about our counterparts in Québec? I mean the students. Do they have sticks shoved up their asses? Do they have uncomfortable mattresses? Do their parents feed them tainted cheese, because that�s all they eat anyway?

What’s wrong with them?

Why are the students in the province of Québec mobilizing en masse to protest the province’s cutback of $103 million in grants/bursaries? Why are these students on strike when Québecers pay the lowest tuition in the country, at an average of $1,800? For fuck’s sake, that’s only 10% of my student debt (about $18,000) — and I’m only in my second year.

Ontario’s students pay some of the highest tuition fees in the country. We’re assailed by fat-cat former-premiers who advocate outrageous modes of student loans (income-contingent loan repayment plans � try saying that ten times fast) that everybody first thinks are rosy-cheeky-muah-
president — but are more aptly described as life-long debt sentences (for the not-so-rich) that are going to bring in the bling for the banking industry.

If we good Ontarians can apply Vaseline to our asses despite getting butt-raped by $5,000 averages in tuition fees — why the hell can’t those goddamn Frenchies shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down?

Ou, en Francais, s’il te-plait: pourquoi can’t those goddamn Frenchies shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down?

What’s wrong with them?

Why don’t they acquiesce to the privatization and bastardization of social services and campuses like we do? Why do they naively continue to believe that mobilization of the masses with mass support from various sectors among the masses will make a massive difference to the classes that hold power in this state of affairs that some call a democracy, but Malcolm X called a disguised hypocrisy?

Maybe — because it will?

Let’s not be such dimwits as to believe that the Liberals of Québec — led by a man who is balding and was at one point a loser leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives (Jean Charest) — will give in completely to the demands of the students. But even if their struggle does not completely bring about the change they want to see, are they not correct to stand up for their rights? For what they believe in?

What are we, the students of Ontario, going to tell our children when they go to university and face thousands of dollars in tuition fees, massive tuition debts, professors sponsored by ExxonMobil and classrooms sponsored by ING Direct? Hold on a second — what the fuck are we, the students of Ontario, telling ourselves?

That we refuse to mobilize and therefore silently and painfully acquiesce because we believe that action does not bring about change anyway? Are we telling ourselves that, yes, we will go down without a fight — because it’s not that bad — right?

It’s not that bad?

Bitches, I’m in my second year of university, I have $18,000 in debt and I don’t even own a credit card! I make excuses not to go out places, most of my clothes are gifts, my parents try to prevent me from buying gifts for my niece on Eids and her birthday, I sometimes find myself without enough money to buy textbooks, and I shudder before I buy a $2.00 hotdog from those hotdog stands outside Sidney Smith — well, I would shudder even if I were loaded … that last point was moot…. I’ll move on now. And there are plenty of fellow students who have it much worse than I can even begin to fathom.

The fact is that it is bad now. And if it�s not that bad now it can only get worse. Unless we stand up and fight for our rights now, we face telling our children that “we didn’t start the fire, son, no we didn”t ignite it but we, uh, tried to, uh, stop listening to Billy Joel … actually we got burned and burnt out like half-ass pussies rather than stopping, dropping and rolling and then helping others put out the fire.”

There’s nothing wrong with those goddamn Frenchies (except maybe escargots, what the fuck is up with that?). The question we ought to ask is why is our shit not hitting the fan?

There’s something wrong with us when the only reason our voices are not heard is because we don’t speak out. There’s something wrong when we’re more concerned with the hockey lockout than Rae’s report, when we pay more attention to the latest happenings on the Apprentice or American Idol than we do to corporate irresponsibility and American imperialism, when we loudly debate pseudo-reality television but shy away from and feel uncomfortable discussing public policy.

I’m going to tell my children that I stood up and fought for my rights and theirs and those of others, even when I felt like no one stood by me, that even when I lost faith in humanity I did not drop the struggle. I’ll know that at least once in my life I decided to join those “radical” activists and skipped a couple of classes to do the least I could — join a protest or something.

I will not, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr. be disappointed by the fervour of those who were opposed to me, but by the silence and inaction of those who should have supported me.

Even if I lose the struggle, and I think I will, I will rest secure in the knowledge that I never acquiesced.

Et tu?

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dumbass forwards

so i get this message in my e-mail today:

Subject: Nokia Offer
Sent: October 12, 2004 4:17:49 AM
Dear all,

> > Please pass on to all your friends & relatives the
> > following e-mail
> > from Nokia. Nokia is giving away phones for free.
> > Nokia is trying
> > word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its product
> > and the reward you
> > receive for advertising for them is a free phone
> > free of cost. To
> > receive your free phone all you have to do is to
> > send this email out
> > to 8 people (for a free Nokia 6210) or 20 people
> > (for a free Nokia
> > WAP). Within 2 weeks you will receive a free phone.
> > (They will contact
> > you through your e- mail address). Please mark a
> > copy to: –
> >

here are some other things that will happen if you send that e-mail out to eight or twenty people:
- john kerry will become president
- canada will invade america, and win
- you will get bitten by a radioactive spider and get its proportionate strength, speed and abilities
- the little drummer boy in an under-developed nation who’s missing an arm and a leg will get twenty cents per forward which will accumulate and contribute to treatment for his colon cancer
- you’ll get eternal salvation, because now, and only now, does jesus truly love you
- you’ll finally pass a course that actually requires you to think

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capitalism, zionism, etc.

so i went to a typical desi party and as usual the males gathered in one room to discuss international politics, as usual
more often than not i don’t dip my foot into these forays as the uncles believe they can solve the problems of the world in their living rooms
but today, i decided i’d step into the fray because, well, it’s been a while since i had a debate

many muslims have this paranoia about zionist jews, that everything the united states does is because of the zionist desire to establish the true eretz israel (or the true land of israel — some call it greater israel) which extends really really far and takes a massive chunk out of the rest of the middle east
interpretations vary, some renditions go north into syria and iraq, west into egypt, some go … well, a lot more than just that

and so many muslims believe that the only reason america is waging a war in iraq is for the territorial expansion of israel, saying that those who believe the war is being waged for the entrepreneurial expansion of corporations are being blinded by a zionist agenda

well that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t explain american involvement in virtually all of south america and the far east (vietnam, korea), and so on so forth
because, hey, eretz israel doesn’t stretch that far — unless for some odd reason you think eretz israel stretches from venezuela to vietnam

which, to say the least, is a load of crap, i don’t think even the hardliners at ahavat israel are pining for that sort of territory

and i’m not saying that capitalism does not serve the purposes of zionism or vice-versa, because there is a massive israeli lobby in washington
and the fact is, the war also benefited israel because iraq has tangibly attacked israel before (with scuds) and was financing suicide bombers — or their families anyway, and so israelis wanted saddam out of the picture

but hey, get real

american involvement in all these areas, and yes even iraq (especially iraq), is particularly for the benefit of the corporate interests that grow richer and richer as the poor grow poorer

stephen bechtel: “We are not in the construction and engineering business. We are in the business of making money.”
(bechtel‘s is one of the companies contracted for the reconstruction of iraq)

if you have the will-power, please do read this article from zmag to understand what i’m talking about:

reconstruction’s bottom line

The problem is, as evidenced most clearly by the case of Bechtel and KBR, the job is not even getting half-done. Profit-maximization has not resulted in the most efficient restoration of power and oil production possible. On the contrary, it gets in the way of doing things right. The power plants will eventually be built and the oil refineries will run again, but not after unnecessary deprivation on the part of Iraqis and not after Bechtel has made the most of the opportunity.

This war to liberate Iraq was never about liberating the Iraqis.

you see, there’s a religion that neo-con’s and right-wingers practice, forget judaism, christianity, islam — capitalism

corporations worship the almighty dollar

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the issues

i was watching the debate on TV
the one with the three cats, eves, mcguinty, hampton — ontario provincial debates

eves said he sympathizes with parents who have to put their kids through university as he has been the father of two kids who’ve gone through university
but eves has been earning over a hundred thousand dollars a year for several years now … did i say hundred thousand? i meant millions
he’s a goddamn millionaire
how the hell does a goddamn millionaire sympathize with the fact that tuition rates are going sky high
how the hell does a goddamn millionaire symptahize with kids who commute long distances on crowded and stretched-thin public transit
how the hell does a goddamn millionaire sympathize with the average person in ontario?

screwed up shit

there’s a rally tomorrow by the SAC of UofT to bring up the issue of tuition fees in the provincial election
but really, what good does that do
conservatives say they’ll cap tuition raise at 2% (but only for arts and science undergraduate programs, let the professional programs go as goddamn high as they want)
liberals say a freeze (for two years … which is good for two goddamn years then let them rocket up)
NDP says 10% reduction, good luck if you ever get voted in

that’s clear enough
liberals are conservatives in red suits
and NDP is just goddamn never gonna get elected
what a shame

and what’s a real shame is the goddamn masses of mindless adolescents who don’t give a shit about the election
let’s vote liberal cuz mommy says vote liberal
or conservative’s gonna help daddy’s business
what the hell does your mind tell you to do
make your own goddamn decision, that’s the point of a vote

most kids don’t even give a shit about politics, nevermind the voting
because that’s so damn boring and it’s not getting you any more popular nor is it getting you a boyfriend on your tail
what a goddamn shame

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one of the most pathetic things i get to see is people posing for their webcams
i mean … and trying to look cool
it’s pathetic, really
this can especially be seen on AA pages and blogs
first of all it’s a bloody webcam
the resolution on those pictures is terrible, so all the edges and lines look blurred and smudged
it’s like taking a good picture on a good cam, going into photoshop, and deliberately blurring and smudging the lines so you look like even more of a fool than you are
secondly, the expressions on the faces, that these people are “all that”
well you’re not, you look like a dweeb — especially the girls trying to look sexy or the guys trying to look intimidating — yeah, maybe on a nice sony cybershot with four megapixels
not on a logitech moron webcam with five pixel capacity that leaves horrendous residues on your numbskull
and the dudes trying to look “cool” with that “no, i’m not posing, i’m just so naturally removed from the world” look
no you’re not
stop being a dipshit
take natural pictures
natural pictures of yourself looking as you always do
not faking sexuality or coolness

if you’re trying to be funny, that’s something else
learn from the master: eric of eric conveys an emotion
this guy’s hilarious and gets my mad respect

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