Tag archives for: quebec

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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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 with a few of his fellow Neo-Victorians. One of them asks him what he thinks about "hypocrisy". Hackworth doesn't quite know what to make of this question but eventually concedes, somewhat half-heartedly, that it's a "vice" - something that should be avoided. This eventually leads to a discussion about our time (the past, from their perspective) which, according to the Neo-Victorians, is characterized by a rampant moral and cultural relativism. It's a time where all philosophies, no matter how depraved, have equal value. In such a world, it's obviously unacceptable to criticize another person's beliefs because doing so would require some sort of objective standard of morality which, in their view, our age sorely lacks.

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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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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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