Tag archives for: culture

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 needed convincing - but rather around the original poster's insistence on conflating "multiculturalism" and "cultural relativism". People were insulted.

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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 father was French Canadian, though not technically Quebecois by birth (he was born in Sudbury). I myself was born in Montreal, so I am, in fact, a Quebecois by birth, but an Anglophone one, despite my last name. To make things more complicated, I spent a lot of my formative years (high school, University) in Toronto, so people often assume I'm from there.

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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 Catholic Church's history of child abuse, or the practice of sati, and they conclude that the separation of church and state is a good idea for much the same reason that the separation of murder and state is a good idea. Religion is bad and the less it has to do with public life, the better.

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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 to expand a little on these thoughts and make the further claim (not so very controversial, I think) that the line between religion and culture tends to be blurry at best and, at worst, damn near non-existent.

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French as an Emergent Property

In a previous blog entry, I described various solar system simulations I played around with in high school. These were perhaps more properly termed "gravity simulations" since what I simulated was not a solar system per se but rather Newton's laws of gravity and motion as applied to a bunch of swirling rocks, which would produce a solar system if the conditions were set up correctly. The orbits that you saw in these programs appeared naturally out of the math, as emergent properties of the equations - they were not explicitly programmed.

This is a key feature of the simulation; I did not start out by assuming that the orbit would be an ellipse, or that there would even be an orbit at all. Rather, I started from the basics: the laws of gravity and motion, and saw what came out of them.

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