Category archives for society

Have You Ever Actually Read That Thing?

I saw this headline today:

How Islamic is Islamic State?

And I started gibbering just a little. I admit, I haven't read the full article because, frankly, I don't really care about the answer. It's a stupid question.

But, like those who insist on calling the hijab a cultural artifact when confronted with the grim reality of women who are forced to wear it, many people seem to find the question pertinent.

It disturbs me how much energy is spent debating the issue. Ask yourself: if ISIS really were following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make …

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Putting "Meta" in Front of Words Makes them Sound Cooler, Right?

One time, back when I was actually semi-active on Google+, I came across a rather heated debate. Someone had posted an article telling the story of a child bride who had died on her wedding night. The post was directed accusingly at self-described proponents of "multiculturalism", an ideology which, in the poster's opinion, was in the same category as "cultural relativism", which he considered deeply depraved.

Unsurprisingly, the debate didn't center around the question of whether child marriage was a horrific practice that needed to be roundly condemned in the harshest terms possible - of course it was, and no one …

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On Being "Accommodating"

Niqabs are in the news again. Stephen Harper wants them off during the Canadian citizenship ceremony. The whole thing is surely a tempest in a teapot, as there have been a grand total of two, count 'em, two women since 2011 who have refused to show their faces during the ceremony, but it has started occasionally ugly debates on the limits of what is generally known as "religious accommodation".

First off, I should mention that I really dislike the term "religious accommodation".

It evokes entirely the wrong imagery. When someone is being "accommodating" they are doing something active, something they …

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Reflections on the Ethnic Vote

Jacques Parizeau died not too long ago. He infamously commented that the 1995 Quebec Referendum was lost due to money and the ethnic vote.

I was in high school, in Toronto, during the referendum. I remember my school following the whole thing very closely. I remember feeling relief when the No side won (by a hair) and I remember the uproar that his statements caused afterwards.

A word about my background before we go on. It's a bit of a mixed bag. I have a British first name (Desmond) and a French last name (Rivet). My mother is Sicilian. My …

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You Keep Using That Word

It's hard to talk about the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo without sounding like you're either a) apologizing for violence or b) spouting tired platitudes about free speech.

I mean, sure, like everyone else, I fully condemn the attacks, given that being offended is not a reason to, you know, shoot people. I feel really weird having to say that. Like they joked on The Daily Show, I sometimes worry if I'm being "denouncy" enough.

But there was something in France's reaction to the attacks (all those myriad "Je suis Charlie" placards) that rubbed me the wrong way …

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Charter Ramblings

Many years ago I read a book called The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. The backdrop against which the story occurs is a relatively near future society where traditional notions of country and state have been largely supplanted by notions of "phyles" - tribes or groups having similar ethnic or cultural characteristics. One of the main characters, a Mr. John Hackworth, belongs to the Neo-Victorian phyle who, like their namesake, are a somewhat prudish lot who follow a rigid and absolute moral code.

The book is good, but one scene in particular has stayed with me. Hackworth is having a conversation …

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The Cultureless

I don't really consider myself Canadian.

Of course, that's kind of a lie. It does say "Canada" on my passport, so there's that. If you ask me about my nationality, I'll say I'm Canadian. If you mistake me for an American, I'll politely correct you. I mean, everybody's got to be from somewhere, right? And I'm from Canada. So I guess that makes me Canadian.

But I don't feel "Canadian" in the same way that many people feel, say, French or British or Indian (or even, dare I say it, Quebecois). My place of birth doesn't form a big part …

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Church, State, and Culture

Have you ever wondered why the separation of church and state is good idea?

I'm assuming, of course, that most everyone in my immediate social circle actually thinks it's a good idea, though since I read about that fiasco involving the mayor of Saguenay, this assumption is perhaps on shakier ground than I would have liked.

But, assuming that I'm correct, have you ever sat down and actually thought about why you think it's a good idea?

I've noticed at least two schools of thought among my friends. Some of them are simply anti-religion. They look at, for example, the …

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What Free Speech Isn't

I can never seem to blog in a timely manner. Lots of things in the world happen which I feel are deserving of comment, but my comments always seem to come a few months after the fact.

Take that recent Daniel Tosh incident, for example. He makes a rape joke during one of his routines, gets heckled by a female member of the audience for it, and then proceeds to suggest (jokingly, I can only assume) that some males in the audience rape her in retaliation.

So far, all we have here is a guy being a dick, which is …

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Religion Versus Culture

In the past, I've commented on France's ban of the niqab, noting in passing that the distinction some people make between religion and culture (emphasizing, for example, that the niqab is a Middle Eastern cultural tradition rather than a specific Islamic law), is irrelevant to question of whether a woman has the right to wear whatever the hell she wants in public - including, of course, a niqab if that's what floats her boat.

At the time, I more or less glossed over what I thought the actual distinction was between culture and religion, so with that in mind I'd like …

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