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hen I was in Grade Four I read a book called Daniel’s Story. Twelve years later, it still haunts me. I’ll be walking to class or waiting for a bus—one time I was buying apples at a Loblaws—and without any trigger I can identify, I’ll remember a terrible scene from this book with the vividness of a nine–year–old’s over–active imagination. Daniel’s Story is a work of children’s literature about the Holocaust, and reading it marked my first significant exposure to the depths of human cruelty. For months after, I remember having nightmares about trains and limp bodies that I couldn’t fully comprehend. I remember looking at the grown–ups around me with confusion, wondering why no one else seemed consumed by the horrific events of our past. Just last week I found out that a friend of mine had read the same book when she was young and, like me, still can’t help but think about it on a regular basis. She questioned the ethics of exposing children to such potentially traumatic literature, especially when not followed up with support and discussion. But I soon found myself arguing in favour of Daniel’s Story—and subsequently trying to justify the distress that it brought us.
There are some parts of history that cannot be made palatable. Becoming aware of them should be painful and I believe it is an inescapably lonely process. I agree that it’s impossible for children to grasp the history of anti–Semitism that made the Holocaust possible—it is perhaps not even within the reach of many adults. Similarly, children probably can’t understand the terrifying banality that Hannah Arendt saw in the evil of Adolf Eichmann. Nonetheless, Daniel’s Story manages to present the Holocaust in a way that children can clearly comprehend. I think the traumatic effect of Daniel’s Story on me as a child was valuable; I was deeply upset, but was introduced to the horrors of Holocaust at a level that was within my grasp. A tragedy of such proportions should haunt me. What worries me now is whether this necessary sadness would be realized had I been several years older. As we grow up, we inevitably become more aware of humankind’s capacity for both good and bad. Reading about the Holocaust twelve years ago, though exceptionally horrific, was only the beginning of my increasing awareness of human cruelty. Whether or not I choose to expose myself to it today, I can’t help but know it exists. But there are no nightmares anymore; there are no flashes of
Editing and Production Co–ordinator Kerry Scott Editors Samantha Green Rob Lederer Kate MacKeracher Jacob Stewart–Ornstein Layout Co–ordinator Sylvia Andreae Graphics Co–ordinator Erin Giroux
sickness at the grocery store about the DRC and Uganda. Of course I feel terrible about the human suffering I hear of, but I have somehow learned to deal. I guess I’ve lost the vivid imagination I had in Grade Four. I’ve definitely gained a somewhat thicker skin. But I’m starting to worry that my ability to handle what would have traumatized me at age nine is part of a larger social consciousness that is more problematic than positive. I’ve learned to cope with each unfolding horror on the news the way many people around me do; I tell myself I’m doing my best, or that there’s nothing to be done. I try to believe that signing petitions and donating to charity is good enough. I buy clothes and choose not to think about how they can be so cheap. I tell myself to be realistic—that change is bound to be slow and that massive systemic problems must be addressed by those stronger than I. These coping mechanisms allow me to read about poverty and war in the paper every morning and still function throughout the day. But they also allow me to help maintain a society that has let horrific poverty and unacceptable death continue. Ultimately, these coping mechanisms are starting to seem a lot like potent opiates: great at helping me sleep at night and even better at keeping me inactive. If my nine–year–old self knew what
6 Your Guide to Bar Diving 8 Ungrateful Guests 14 Full House or Three’s Company? 16 Prioritizing Poverty or Waste of Paper? 19 Nitty Gritty at the UN 20 Choose Wisely 22 Minding Multiculturalism A professional sport in Hamilton
Mac and Hamilton make odd bedfellows Hints for off–campus housing
Canada’s new development aid bill
Climate change conference in Nairobi
Assistant Editors Ben Freeman
How to buy a computer
Printing Hamilton Web Printing
Does Christmas belong in schools?
Impact Youth Publications 97 Sterling Hamilton, ON L8S 4J3 firstname.lastname@example.org http://phispace.net/incite Incite is published six times per academic year by Impact Youth Publications. 10,000 copies are distributed in the McMaster University–Westdale area. Entire contents copyright 2006–2007 Impact Youth Publications. Letters up to 300 words may be sent to the above address; they may be edited for length and clarity and will not be printed unless a name, address, and daytime phone are provided. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Incite’s staff or Impact Youth Publications.
Graphics and Layout Boram Ham Andrew Mok Jennifer Torosian Anne van Koeverden Siva Vijenthira Laura Zajacz Contributors Vass Bednar Sarah Beukema Andrew Carriero Jeanette Eby Zoë Caron Chris Evans Zsuzsi Fodor Katie Huth Rahim Jamal Graham Jenner Laura Kieft Caroline Olsen Ana Nikolic Debjani Poddar Andrea Simon Meaghan Smith Stephanie Tom Rebecca Wood Vanessa Wynn–Williams
I’m coming to understand now about humankind’s capacity for evil, she would probably have been debilitated by despair. If my twenty–one–year–old self learned about the Holocaust today, I would certainly be horrified, but perhaps not to the depth that should be requisite. Why am I able to carry the weight of horrific knowledge so easily these days? Where is the due trauma? While children’s exposure to human cruelty must be kept within realms they can handle, we adults seem all too capable of handling whatever sickness we encounter. What would happen if we stopped coping quite so well and actually felt the full force of the tragedies that exist around us? We, unlike children, are implicated in the society that pains us. And it is because of this implication that our outrage and despair can become powerful tools for transformation—rather than the cause of a child’s debilitating despair. Feeling responsible—even guilty—is proof that we are positioned to effect change. With a child’s ability to feel trauma and an adult’s acceptance of responsibility for our part in this trauma, perhaps real change could occur. Unfortunately, reaching this point seems impossible: until we stop smoking the opiates, we won’t create a world that we are willing to handle sober.
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Happenings: News from Near and Far Letter From India Column: Pop Poetry: I found your blue
Cover art by Laura Zajacz Cover design by Siva Vijenthira
MINUTES FROM LAST MONTH selected news from near and far
Vegan Heaven McMaster won the distinction of the Most Vegetarian-Friendly University in Canada. PETA sponsored an online contest where students could vote for the most vegetarian-friendly college or university in Canada from a list of 15 nominees. Second in Canada was the University of Victoria, and third place went to the University of Waterloo. Despite McMaster’s rather dismal standing in Maclean’s this year, at least we’re first in something!
Pretty as a Picture The McMaster Museum of Art is currently exhibiting the work of internationally acclaimed Canadian photographer Arnaud Maggs, the recipient of the 2006 Governor General’s Award. Born in Montreal in 1926, Maggs creates art inspired by the human condition. He is commended for his variety of pieces including mug shots, death notices, tickets recording child labour in textile factories, and even French hotel signs. Now investigating classifications of colour, Maggs has shot each page of two 19th century texts: Werner’s Nomenclature
inside the bubble of Colours (1814) and Cercles Chromatiques (1861). The first explores colour in nature, while the latter is concerned with theory and includes eleven colour wheels. The exhibit will be in the McMaster Museum of Art from 23 November 2006 until 20 January 2007, so make sure to stop by to experience this rare and wonderful style of art.
key-cup is a very healthy one. It may even be beneficial to occasionally feed the plant frozen crickets. If you get the opportunity, make sure that you check out this rare plant, but you may want to leave your pet mouse at home.
Shopping becomes more than just a pastime around the holidays, and McMaster has some innovative research Within McMaster’s 5000-square- to contribute to this very competitive foot biology greenhouse lurks a and often injury-inducing sport. Dr. seemingly innocent plant that, when Milena Head reports that Canadians the time comes, can engulf a mouse have grown extremely comfortable caught in its sticky and acidic trap. with online shopping. More than half This carnivorous plant is called the of all adult Canadians have made at nepenthes, also referred to as a Tropi- least one online purchase, with the cal Pitcher Plant or a Monkey-cup. most popular items including tickets, It is a vine-forming plant of the old books, and music. Online retailers world tropics, naturally growing in have come up with new and innoareas such as Malaysia, Australia, and vative marketing schemes to attract India. The greatest diversity occurs buyers. Buycause.com even allows on Borneo and Sumatra where they shoppers to support charities or educan grow big enough to eat a monkey! cation funds through their purchases. But don’t worry—like most nepenthes Gap Inc. has a new online shoe store, grown in greenhouses, McMaster’s is offering advice from Rachel Zoe, the not that big. With proper care, the stylist behind Lindsay Lohan and her nepenthes can thrive and live for a many Hollywood lookalikes. Head long time, and thanks to Art Yeas, the says that people like online shopping plant’s caretaker, McMaster’s mon- because it’s more personal and cus-
Feed me Seymour
tomizable. So while you’re finishing up your online course, why not get a head start on your gifts?
Plague Preparation Ever wonder what would happen if a severe pandemic were to occur in your lifetime? Imagine a repeat of the Black Death or the Spanish Flu of 1918, each of which killed millions of people. Well, such topics have also occupied the minds of McMaster disease specialist, Dr. Michael Christian and a group of his fellow researchers. The team worked to develop a plan to guide the first several days or weeks of a possible pandemic. Dr Christian noted that because of the severity of a pandemic, it would not be possible for everyone to receive equal care, so a triage protocol would be created, giving precedence to those who would most likely benefit from treatment. So, fear not, if ever an influenza pandemic is to occur, if you are young and capable of harsh physical labour or have high reproductive potential, you will most likely survive. Compiled by Sarah Beukema, Laura Kieft, and Meaghan Smith
Honey, how do I look? TORONTO—In September, students from design schools in Toronto competed in a fashion design competition. The catch? Make a dress entirely of toilet paper. No longer just for wedding showers, the White Cashmere Student Design Competition 2006 was part of Cottonelle’s marketing campaign for the launch of their new label, Cashmere, so students had to use Cashmere bathroom tissue. To make the paper less flimsy, students stiffened the tissue with paper maché, braided it, or pleated it. One student even knitted the tissue for a sundress. The winner, Nancy Hoang of George Brown College, received a $2500 bursary.
CBC Civic Journalism ON AIR—In a bid to improve their rapport with local audiences, CBC television has cancelled the half–hour evening national news show, Canada Now, effective in February. It will be replaced by the expansion of regional six o’clock newscasts to a full hour. There is, however, no need to worry about the dreamy Canada Now host
Ian Hanomansing’s fate, as he will assume the co–anchorage of Vancouver’s hour long show. The Vancouver show is also pioneering a civic journalism approach to news broadcasting that will incorporate information, images, and videos uploaded by viewers. So keep your cell phone camera on the ready and you may be providing up–to–the minute footage for your evening news.
One for the Record ACROSS THE COUNTRY—November—the month of Remembrance Day, All Saints Day…and World Records Day! 9 November was the second annual World Records Day, when people all over the world tried to break one of the Guinness World Records. In Toronto, the Radio City Rockettes joined a group of 1,681 other dancers to make the world’s longest single line of dancers, beating the record of 1,150 set in Stein, Germany. Peter Charney of Edmonton was going for the most bungee jumps in a 24–hour period. Victoria planned the largest underwater news conference, and Guelph hosted the longest concert. The CN Tower
also made another record, this one for the world’s highest wine cellar. So, if you have nothing better to do, next 9 November go break a world record: longest nose hair, perhaps.
What luck! SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO—After a tie was determined for the votes of city counselors in two separate municipalities, the winner was declared in a very unusual manner. On Election Day, Dave Oliphant led by one vote for his council seat, and John Paterson led by three for his. It wasn’t until the recount that both parties ended in a tie. According to the Municipal Elections Act, the winner of a tied vote must be determined by purely by chance. Oliphant (East Zorra–Tavistock’s Ward One) and Paterson (Lemington) both ended up winning by random draw.
Holiday Cheer for Canadian Troops TORONTO—Employees at the Toronto Steam Whistle Brewery have decided to donate one week of their staff beer
rations to Canadian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The company will also contribute by doubling this donation. Alcohol is not readily available in the Muslim country, but troops are permitted liquor on the base three times during the year, including Christmas. The gift will be festively decorated and include a limited edition holiday 12–pack topped with a gift tag. All aboard the Steam Whistle train of altruism.
A Dubious Honour QUEBEC—Move over Celine Dion—a new Canadian star has been born. And I’m not talking about Canadian Idol either. Ghyslain Raza, a.k.a. the Star Wars Kid, became infamous when his friends posted a video of him in uninhibited imitation of Darth Maul on the Internet. According to a recent study of the entire web by The Viral Factory, Raza’s video is the most popular video on the entire Internet, and has been viewed over 900 million times, even beating out Paris Hilton’s sex tape. Compiled by Laura Kieft, Ana Nikolic, Caroline Olsen, and Meaghan Smith
...and around the world Man’s best (no taller than 35cm) friend BEIJING—Citizens of Beijing are protesting against new rules put into place to limit families to only owning one small dog each, arguing that this demand is inhumane. The ‘one dog’ campaign was originally launched to contain the threat of rabies, said to be caused by an increasing popularity of pet ownership, paired with a lack of vaccinations purchased by the owners. Protesters claim that the ban placed on breeds taller than 35 cm would lead to dogs being confiscated and perhaps even killed. Anyone keeping a second unlicensed dog will face prosecution.
You’re in the army now… ISRAEL—It often seems that celebrities get special treatment: they’re given free clothing, police turn a blind eye to their indiscretions, and fans love them regardless of, or perhaps because of, their glaring flaws. Fashion model Miss Israel has taken it one step further. Having recently completed training as a private in the Israeli army, Yael Nezri has been declared exempt from carrying her assault rifle during service, but not for her pacifist ideals. Rather she claims the rifle bruises her legs, compromising her ability to model in photo shoots. I wonder what Tyra would think?
Something’s fishy NEW YORK—Fans of Cornell University’s hockey team in New York have been ordered to stop throwing fish at their Harvard University rivals. League officials have become tired of the long–standing tradition, and now search fans for alcohol and fish as they enter the arena. The tradition began in 1973, when a Harvard fan threw a dead chicken at Cornell’s goalie. When Harvard and Cornell met again five weeks later, Cornell fans responded in kind, throwing fish at Harvard players, and sneaking a live chicken on the ice during intermission. Over the years, fans have thrown the occasional lobster and octopus, and the fish count has sometimes reached 100. Three years ago, a Harvard player was hit by a lake trout; now Harvard players line up on the opposite side from the Cornell student section. And you thought hitting from behind was a problem!
It’s better to regift than to receive NORTH AMERICA—Box up that hideous sweater you’ll never wear or that putrid candle you’ll never light and throw a bow on top, because chances are the recipient of your gift won’t mind. A recent North American survey conducted by Money Management International has found that 54 percent of respondents do not find regifting
rude. Moreover, you won’t be alone in avoiding the crowded shopping malls and saving some money. 37 percent of those surveyed had practised regifting with the highest participation in women 35–54 years old. There are some important things to keep in mind when bestowing a gift that you yourself have received: always use fresh wrapping with a new gift tag, only give items in their original packaging, never regift one–of–a–kind or handmade items, and most importantly, be sure to remember where you got each present so that you don’t regift to the original giver. Santa’s elves had better beware: if regifting takes off, they may need to look for work elsewhere.
Road safety made sexy DENMARK—Danish road safety officials have produced an online video aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of speeding among young men. The video features topless women holding signs that show the Danish speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour. Speeding has been blamed for roughly a quarter of road deaths in Denmark. So far the results have been positive. Over half of a test group reported that they were more concerned with the dangers of speeding after watching the video. Officials are considering a similar campaign to target speeding young women involving exposed men’s bottoms.
Teaching tots to tipple FRANCE—The sandbox and storytime may suffice for the vulgar progeny of North Americans, but several French MPs are trying to put the “class” in “classroom” for their nation’s more refined enfants. Amid dire predictions for the future of France’s ancient winemaking industry, the country’s ruling party has released a report that proposes several ways to improve the market for French wine, including introducing wine appreciation into the curricula of primary schools. According to the French government’s report, domestic per capita wine consumption has plummeted over the past 20 years. To mitigate French youths’ deteriorating taste, the report advocates enlightening children to the history, culture, and health benefits of the national vintages. The report suggested a second method of salvaging the reeling fortunes of France’s iconic intoxicant: convert the bilge–swilling global market to a more elevated level of wine consumption. In particular it proposed simplification of the notoriously recondite French labelling system, to entice North American Cro–Magnons frightened by excessive verbiage plastered over their inebriants. Stay tuned for Coca–Wine–Cola. Compiled by Laura Kieft, Caroline Olsen, and Meaghan Smith
Beer Beyond Quarters Your Guide
Hamilton’s Dive Bars
Anna Strathy and Vanessa Wynn-Williams
n a dreary Wednesday night, Incite investigative journalists and beer connoisseurs extraordinaire Anna Strathy and Vanessa Wynn–Williams embarked on a journey to scour the streets of Hamilton in search of the diviest—yes, divey is an adjective—bar. Trust us, bar hopping, sipping on cold beer, and enjoying Hamilton’s finest sights, sounds, and smells is a lot more strenuous than it would seem. After six hours of intense “research,” we present to you the fruits of our labour: “A Guide to Bar Diving: A Professional Sport in Hamilton”. Joe Buttinsky’s Bar and Wing Joint 103 King Street East
• Two domestic bottles @ $3.46 each
Experience: At first glance, we weren’t sure whether or not Mighty Mike’s, boasting “The Best Food in Town,” fit our criteria for a dive bar. Then again, it was the start of the night, and we weren’t sure what our criteria were. During our deliberations, Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” began playing: we were in the right place. Grabbing two bar stools and making ourselves comfortable, we ordered two pints and took in our surroundings. It looks like a pool table threw up all over the walls. Green felt and oak wood serves as a background for the hockey memorabilia and old Hollywood references, which hang on the walls. Mike’s is fairly large; that particular night, it had about 40 patrons including a combination of uniformed high school students (playing pool and nursing their pitcher undisturbed), leather–clad mobsters, and a camouflage–wearing infant in his mother’s arms. Just as we began to get a feel for the place, a rousing “Happy Birthday” came bellowing from the kitchen. Soon after, the waitress brought us pieces of cake and invited us to celebrate with Kenny. Unsure of what adventures were to come, we finished our cake and beer (a surprisingly delightful combination!) and stepped into the rainy street.
Experience: Its flashing neon sign a beacon in the rain, we feared Joe Buttinsky’s was too established for this review. The homeless man camped out on the patio, however, was a testament to its dive potential. We scooted past him, went in, and took a seat. After asking what was on tap, the sole bartender informed us that “the taps are crap—the Bud is gone and the Ex is getting there.” We opted for bottles and began our observations. The interior decorating is limited to neon beer signs and a suspended tandem bike, while the railings in the stairwell are fashioned from baseball bats. We treated ourselves to a handful of hot nuts—that’s right, hot nuts—for one dollar. While we debated the amount of time the nuts had spent under the heat lamp, our bartender was busy entertaining the other two customers in the bar. Just in case they were confused, she assured them that she is pale because she’s British, not anemic. We took turns venturing to the bathroom, a stranger following behind. When Vanessa returned, she recited some charming poetry to Anna that she had seen inscribed on the stall advocating drug use and gang violence. We quickly finished our bottles and as we walked out, another customer came in just for a “quick rum and coke.”
Verdict: Although its exterior is reminiscent of a convenience store, Mighty Mike’s is a place where, for lack of a better cliché, “everybody knows your name.” You may even end up with a piece of cake, too!
Verdict: The Ben Harper and Coldplay on the stereo threatened to decrease Joe’s dive factor, but our separate instinctual reaches for pepper spray while the other was in the washroom put it right back up there.
Mighty Mike’s Sports Bar & Billiards 96 Main Street East
• Two full pints of domestic beer @ $3.41 each
The Red Lion Inn 152 King Street West
• Two generic–sized draft @ $2.50 each Experience: The Red Lion Inn was the only dive bar we reviewed upon recommendation, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. On the way back to school from downtown, many of you have probably noticed the large sign outside the Red Lion Inn advertising “Beer from Around the World”. Please note: the international beer selection on tap is Canadian and Export. This bar looks like a large bathroom that was gutted and turned into a bingo hall. Dark corners abound, the floor tiles are few and far between, and remnants of party streamers were taped to the stained ceiling. The older waitress was quick and conscientious. When she brought over our surprisingly cheap beer, she asked us if we needed more light, assumingly for our “work.” The series premiere of “Daybreak” was being projected onto a large screen, but we appeared to be the only ones enjoying Taye Diggs. The other five patrons were either at the bar, alone in a corner, or in a small group of elderly folk. While Anna was in the washroom, the oldest man in the bar, and perhaps in all of Hamilton, approached Vanessa. Anna soon returned, applying her hand sanitizer for lack of soap in the washroom. The mystery man then asked whether
we were housekeeping staff, kissed our hands with his slobber–covered lips, and then made his way back to his table. When another man walked in doing up his pants, we decided that it was time to leave; but just as we were getting up, we were stopped by our waitress delivering two more drinks to our table, compliments of our mystery kisser, Fred. After graciously thanking him, he stood up on his wobbly legs and proclaimed, “I LOVE WOMEN!” Verdict: With the large screen and cheap beer, The Red Lion Inn is a good place to watch popular television on a buzz. Just make sure to bring the hand sanitizer and don’t plan on an overnight stay. We can only imagine what the “Inn” looks like.
Ramshead Irish Pub
194 King Street West
1337 Main Street West
• Two small domestic draft @ $2.63 each and 1 plate of chicken fingers and fries @ $6.90
• Two domestic pints @ $3.25 each
Experience: Walking along King Street, the hunger pains kicked in. Substantially rain– soaked and tipsy, Harvest Burger presented the perfect solution: McDonald’s with a liquor license. An unassuming dive bar, Harvest Burger is another distinct landmark along the King Street strip. From the outside, it has remnants of an old drive–thru, but on the inside we found both a fast–food restaurant and a bar, separated by a plexi–glass wall. Unsure how to proceed, we ordered our food and asked if we could bring it into the bar. “Sure,” our server said, “but tell me what you want now, because I’m the bartender too.” As we carried our paper plate and our “Cool” beer to our table, we realized that the kitschy décor stopped at nothing—the seats flipped down like those at a movie theatre. The food was good but the entertainment mediocre (Much 911 on a small TV in the corner). A lone man asked if we would stay for a second round, but noticing that Fred had already put us over the edge, we politely declined. Verdict: This place does the trick, but there are no bells or whistles. It has the rudimentary elements of a dive, but it’s not a place where you’d want to make more than a stop–over.
Experience: It was nearing the end of our night and we were tired, to say the least. We made our way to our final stop, Ramshead, around 1:30 AM. Although we’ve been at McMaster for four years, it seems we both missed the memo that Ramshead is packed on Wednesday nights. We presume that the cheap pints, $10 pitchers, and close proximity to campus keep the Mac students coming back for more. Now, we’re sure that many will argue that Ramshead is not worthy of inclusion in this review. We would like to point out, however, that on most nights, Ramshead is a small hole in the wall on Main Street, sandwiched between a falafel restaurant and a funeral parlour. The interior decorating is neither cute nor sophisticated. Were it not across the street from Mac, we’d venture to say Ramshead is like a miniature version of Mighty Mikes. That being said, on Wednesday nights at least, Ramshead has very few dive–like qualities. It was filled to the brim with customers (including people we knew!), the music featured classic hits such as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” and the taps had something other than Bud, Ex, Cool or Buzz flowing. Verdict: So Wednesday night at Ramshead is far from Divey. Can we get off by saying we didn’t want to be stuck downtown alone too late?
1088 Main Street West
Experience: A quick bus ride back to familiar territory and we stumbled up the steps of Perry’s by 12:40 AM. Perry’s has recently become a student hot–spot, boasting cheap drinks and a new cult following of Perryoke: karaoke, Perry’s style. On this particular night, no one was belting it out on the mic, but there was awesome background music, about 15 patrons, and a significantly younger crowd than previous dives, with a median age of about 25. Perry’s is like Snooty, student–friendly, but without the deafening noise and with half priced beer. We settled into a table and ordered half–pints. Our research was soon interrupted by an unwelcome encounter with a couple of pompous ribbed–turtleneck–wearing PhD students. We engaged in a “stimulating” debate on the conduciveness of Mac’s campus planning to student socializing. The two of us adamantly defended our beloved McMaster from their ignorant attacks. Anna, with a little help from her half–pint, put these prepsters in their place, and sent them back to their places at the bar with their tails between their legs. Well done! Undergraduates: 1, PhDs: 0. Verdict: A not–so–secret gem in close proximity to Mac. Perhaps the only thing divey about Perry’s is the prices! Just steer clear of the academics that can’t fit their egos through the door, and don’t know when to leave their high–strung debate techniques in the classroom.
When we first began this investigation, we were unsure as to what exactly constituted a “dive bar.” Was it location, clientele, drink selection, décor? After conducting our thorough research, we have determined what we think gives a bar dive–like qualities. Keep the following in mind when looking to make the most of your “Bar Diving” experience: • A good dive bar is often named after someone; • Drinks must be cheap, and generally limited to a few domestic varieties on tap; • Washrooms will usually make you leave feeling more dirty than when you went in; • Food is frequently an option but seldom one you want to try; • You’ll probably find electronic gambling and peanut (hot or otherwise) machines; and • You’ll want to leave for the first ten minutes, but soon feel right at home. Sick of waiting in line at Quarters, Fever, and Elixir? On a student budget? Looking for something new? Get out there and experience some of Hamilton’s most distinctive bars. Try “Bar Diving” and have some stories to tell your friends!
• Two imported half–pints @ $2.59 each
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Does McMaster have an obligation to Hamilton? By Katie Huth and Rahim Jamal
ren’t we all getting tired of hearing about poverty? Don’t we already know that if Copps Coliseum was to hold a concert for the city’s poor, it would sell out five
times? From bake sales in the student centre to articles in The Silhouette, from neon–coloured messages chalked on pavement to jangly coin jars passed around in classes marked with a message of despair, we have come to know the grim statistics that attempt to tell the stories of people in poverty—unskilled workers, immigrants, indigenous peoples, street youth, and retired people. We’re saddened, sometimes outraged. Because awareness has been the holy mantra of social justice groups, there is an expectation that our sadness and outrage will compel us to act to rid ourselves of the poor who shame Hamilton. Sounds inspiring. Maybe, though, we’ve got it wrong. Lots of McMaster students, after delirious nights at the bar, cannot avoid seeing the poverty statistics living and breathing in Hess Village. We know the facts, we’re aware of the problem, and we do nothing. In some cases, awareness campaigns have failed to generate the kind of public pressure needed to effect change. The assumption that awareness is a sufficient precursor for action
needs questioning. Why are we not prompted to act upon learning the need for our assistance? Maybe we think that helping out is only for certain kinds of people: the compassionate, the altruistic, the pretentious, or the med–school keeners intent on padding their resumés with praiseworthy deeds. The outcome of the rat race to impress future employers and admission boards is a club for every issue, offering free pizza to any student who wishes to fundraise for the cause. Perhaps another deterrent is the belief that more competent people are taking care of the problems— what can the generic student offer? Or that we’re simply protected by the “bubble” which prevents McMaster students from dealing with poverty that doesn’t live in their own backyards. Maybe, we simply don’t see ourselves vested in Hamilton’s future. Or maybe we just don’t care. We have our own issues to deal with. Personal priorities and concerns occupy the top spots on our to–do lists, whether one is a student or regular citizen. It seems impossible to justify a difference in responsibility to the community. If anything, the capacity of a student to address local issues is greater, as most of us are not bogged down by jobs or children. But more importantly, as noted by Dr. Jane Aronson, Director of McMaster’s School of Social Work, McMaster students should be engaging in a kind of “responsible education” where we open our eyes to the world around us. In other words, by virtue of being students, we should be striving to confront the issues that pester our conscience. But though a medley of facts and statistics twiddle our heartstrings, on the whole, the student body has failed to translate awareness into action.
G RAPHICS BY ERIN G IROUX
Though apathy characterizes the collective, many individuals who attend McMaster have ventured into the community equipped with good intentions. Some are prompted by their own curiosity and drive to address a particular issue, while the impetus for others is to extend parallel experiences from their hometown. The latter is what led Cindy Raymond, a first year Commerce student, to take part in the Hamilton Out of the Cold (HOOTC) program through a residence initiative. “Upon coming to Mac, I did not get the impression that there was a big push for involvement in the community... but I saw a poster in residence and was excited to participate in HOOTC because I was involved in the same program in Toronto.” HOOTC provides a meal and overnight accommodation for the homeless in the Hamilton community from November through March. A steady increase in the number of guests over its nine year existence—roughly 13 000 meals were served last year, compared to 1400 in 1997—attests not only to the program’s success in fulfilling a need, but also to the steady depreciation of Hamilton’s social situation. Program coordinator and Hamilton resident Cindy Richter comments
that, “When I was a teenager my friends and I would go downtown to Jackson Square every weekend. Now I would never let my kids go out on their own.” Andrea Marks, a fourth year kinesiology student and HOOTC volunteer also recognizes the overwhelming prevalence of poverty: “Just taking a walk downtown at any time of the day, it’s quite shocking how many homeless people you see, and how many people you encounter begging for change.” This poverty is perpetuated by structural inequalities. A Hamiltonian working 40 hours per week at minimum wage earns an income below the poverty line. This fact should motivate our involvement in addressing injustice, as many of us are inclined to believe that destitution can be attributed to laziness on the part of the impoverished. Dr. Aronson comments that, “some people don’t want to hear that no matter how hard some people work, they’ll still be poor.” Yet the concern of the student body as a whole has not escalated with the gravity of this issue, at least not enough to spur us into greater action. Granted, getting involved in Hamilton is difficult for the large proportion of McMaster students who commute, and many others must devote long hours to their jobs for financial support. Volunteering is often last on the priority list, superseded by academics, employment, and wild nights on the town (or Village). When schedules bloat with activity, community involvement is considered expendable, much like high school music programs when the budget runs short. Still, the demands of university life exhaust our time and force us to make these tough choices but the crux is that no one loses sleep over this one. It is too easy for students to become immersed in campus commitments with simply a passing regret that their capacity doesn’t extend past McMaster boundaries (but we care about the poor, we really do). The upshot of our disconnection from the greater community is that we have no sense of obligation to anything outside the university. Students that don’t call Hamilton home are often ungrateful guests, feeling a responsibility only for the communities which they return to at the end of term. Hayley Erdman is a fourth year Life Science student and HOOTC volunteer who feels that we cannot justify separating ourselves from the city. “Even if we come here just as students for a short time, we use the area resources, frequent the businesses and we should do something to show that we appreciate the support system in the community by helping those who need it.” Venturing off–campus often entails a tunnel– vision–journey to Hess Village or Jackson Square and back—we ignore the schizophrenic–looking man muttering incomprehensible incantations and reason that the frizzy–haired lady smoking a cigarette would probably waste any change we could spare. Nothing is important enough to distract us from our mission and no connection is made to any other part of the city. The heart of the problem is that students do not feel respon-
sible for a community with which they do not identify.
How Hamilton Sees Us Stepping outside our self–involved skins for a moment might help us to understand what the community thinks about us. The variety of student activity which Hamiltonians are exposed to generates a range of opinions. Some areas only see the “partier”, or Dr. Jekyll face of student life, as we stumble home after a raucous night at Quarters. A number see hard–working students who are active in Hamilton—volunteering in downtown schools, working in soup kitchens, and performing studies to help address local problems—as being representative of the McMaster student body. But much of the good done by students is conducted within the comfort of university borders and is rarely immediately apparent or beneficial to Hamilton residents. After all, many students do not venture outside of the Main–Sterling–Cootes context—for some, even Westdale is extraterrestrial. This detachment from most of Hamilton may be the grounds for our idleness in the community. There are those of us who rarely leave the safety of our aesthetically–pleasing DeGroote– sponsored campus. Raymond is one of many students who have been warned by parents not to go downtown alone. Residence Life coordinator Tamara Baldwin has worked at McMaster for a number of years and agrees that there is a definite “I wouldn’t go past Jackson Square” stigma. In such cases, there is no direct interaction with or exposure to local people and the issues which affect them. For the many students protected by McMaster’s secure borders, awareness campaigns about the greater community can help them break out of the bubble. But even for the majority of us who live off– campus, keeping the Second Cup in Westdale afloat with our caffeine addictions and boosting Jackson Square’s profits with our purchases of leis for tropical parties, long–term Hamilton residents have to live with the revolving door of our presence in the community. Some of us are, no doubt, short–term tenants, fronting an air of entitlement, doing what we please without regard for our neighbours. The subtext of many of our actions can be read as: “We don’t have to answer to the community. We give back by paying our tuition, taxes, and investing in a city with smelly industry and seedy lamppost solicitation.” Perception of this attitude triggers the disapproval displayed by some Hamiltonians towards McMas-
ter, including the members of Westdale Against Drunk Students. Raymond believes programs like HOOTC are somewhat effective in battling such prevailing sentiments. “They show the community that we’re not stuck up, and that some students are willing to give their time.” Yet quite a few of us students are not compelled to give back to Hamilton since we do not consider ourselves residents of the city. We are here primarily to get the degrees that are a V.I.P. pass in the working world. That’s what the University rightfully caters to: students who need to make it in the cut– throat job market. But could McMaster do more? Dr. Aronson believes that, while ensuring innovative education prepares students for great careers, more could be done to teach students how to be engaged citizens, individuals who “see themselves embedded in the city and the world around them, feeling a sense of entitlement to the city and a responsibility to others.” Whether or not McMaster cares to make an institutional commitment to address local issues and educate its students on citizenship, it is fair to assume that in the big bad world of corporate–sponsored, cutting–edge research, addressing and investing in the needs of the international populace are far more important to a university’s reputation than serving the local community.
Current Efforts Fall Short In all fairness, there are a number of University initiatives that are directing attention to the community. The School of Social Work has naturally always been rooted in the community. The School created a fourth–year course entitled “Social Change: Advocacy and Social Movements” with support from the Experiential Education Office. Registered students are asked to apply classroom–learned theory to the Hamilton area. Currently instructed by Dr. Sandra Preston, student group projects include a needs assessment of the new LGBTQ Centre, planning and execution of events for the Woman Abuse Working Group, planning of a recreational program for street youth, and a petitioning campaign aimed at raising the minimum wage to a living one (interestingly enough, after the group spoke to over 200 individuals outside the Tim Hortons in Westdale, only fifteen agreed to sign). There are also a number of MSU–funded groups, such as OPIRG and Frontier College, which provide volunteering opportunities and increase awareness of local issues on campus. Baldwin has spearheaded Service Learning programs where students engage in community projects and learn through a cycle of action and reflection. This year, a series of trips for five groups of twenty have been organized to involve students in community efforts. The group is stationed in Hamilton, hosting students from the University of Alberta, and will be working with local agencies associated with the Poverty Project. Another of McMaster’s notable contributions is its presence at the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, where community leaders have gathered to collectively work to reduce poverty. Two McMaster representatives, including Dr. Gary Warner, retired professor and recipient of the Order of Canada, have a seat on this committee.
Much Room For Improvement While many of the university’s current efforts to tackle local poverty have been valuable, there are more avenues McMaster could explore to strengthen its relationship with the Hamilton community. Dr. Warner has had a long–standing dedication to anti–poverty work, and believes the university should augment its presence on committees that work to improve living conditions in the city. “The Students’ Union should definitely be involved in promoting student engagement in combating poverty. One specific initiative could be to have the MSU represented formally as a youth voice on the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.” Lending the voice of the student body to Hamilton’s collaborative effort to contend with poverty would encourage individuals to become more informed. McMaster could also organize a central and accessible hub to effectively facilitate students’ direct involvement with community services. “We should have a coordination centre, where we can build relationships with not– for–profit agencies so they don’t have multiple McMaster students calling in each day to whom they would have to explain their services” says Baldwin, who notes that the university has the time and resources to make these connections. As we endeavour to assist Hamilton’s charitable organizations, we must ensure that our involvement actually improves their efficiency rather than overburdens them. Dr. Aronson adds to the list of possible community initiatives with the suggestion that students perform advocacy work. This could involve doing some of the labour for organizations like Income Security Working Group, the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, and Settlement and Immigration Services. There are many ways to get involved in the community,
“long–term Hamilton residents have to live with the revolving door of our presence in the community” and for those not comfortable with volunteering in person with the poor, paper–work is an alternative. Many university faculty, students, and coordinators of Hamilton organizations believe that community involvement should be integrated into broader university curriculum like it has been in Social Work. Dr. Aronson believes this kind of integrated educational initiative is “social work at its best.” Baldwin maintains that experiential education is a great way for McMaster to emphasize societal responsibility. “Every faculty should offer courses that involve service learning, which would relate to what the student is studying.” Richter also believes that students can be motivated to identify the roots of Hamilton’s problems “by incorporating these ideas into their field
Continued on page 10
of study, whether it is sociology, political science, or medicine.” Further, fourth–year Humanities student and HOOTC volunteer, Christian Rutledge, comments that “a university–run and funded, student–managed co–op/intern position is a progressive solution.” Despite the fact that there is clearly a gaping niche for McMaster to fill in the Hamilton community, the university has neglected its focus on local issues in favour of reputable Canadian and international ones. We can send teams of researchers to India, but not a group over the bridge to do a community project. This inconsistency in McMaster’s dedication to addressing major issues models a poor value system for its students. The university should be held accountable for fulfilling its role in Hamilton’s movement to effect social change through a written institutional commitment. By mandating local involvement, the university would become an important stakeholder vested in the success of the strategies discussed above—coordinating volunteer efforts, performing advocacy work, and multiplying volunteer–based courses.
Enforcing compassion These strategies are necessary, for students do not often act independently upon their concern for poverty in Hamilton without support from university groups. The sentiments expressed in our interviews indicate a general dissatisfaction with the current level of student involvement—a product of the individual’s failure to take initiative. This leads one to speculate that the situation would improve if McMaster promoted opportunities and set out clear expectations for how it would make its students better citizens. The suggestion of mandatory volunteer hours as a means to compel involvement— comparable to the prerequisite for graduation imposed by Ontario high schools—is met with resounding rejection from faculty and students alike. MSU President John Popham points out the already stressful lives many student lead. “Students are primarily at McMaster to get a degree. Many students need to work to be able to pay for school. To force volunteer hours onto these schedules seems to be too much to ask.” Dr. Warner is convinced that an example set by the institution is the most powerful means of motivating the individual. “I do not support mandatory volunteer hours for McMaster students. I support encouraging students to become engaged in volunteerism and facilitating their involvement.” From a student perspective, Erdman believes that enforcing community involvement defeats the purpose and spirit of volunteerism. “I think you should take on a volunteer position only if it means something to you, not to fulfill a quota. Volunteering is a very personal thing I think, where you participate in a program or help people because you identify with the cause and find it extremely important to take action. Otherwise you’re just going through the motions.” A majority of individuals choose not to dedicate their hours to community involvement, often due to the weight of other priorities. Yet popular opinion adamantly opposes the introduction of official expec-
tations, arguing that personal commitment when volunteering is necessary to influence real and effective change. Essentially, we want people to choose to volunteer. Granted, mandating a certain number of volunteer hours per student would impose a significant logistical challenge, and would entail the same challenges currently encountered in secondary schools—teenagers resigned to complete their hours, bored with civic responsibility. However, forcing student action might at least be a step toward increased community engagement. Unanimous disagreement with mandating volunteer hours indicates that McMaster ought to consider other measures to facilitate community involvement. Students are overwhelmed with other commitments, so incorporating service learning into a greater number of courses would be a positive step. Students are unsure of how to get involved, so establishing connections with community groups and promoting these opportunities would also be beneficial. Ultimately, individuals still make the choice whether and how to become active in Hamilton. As Dr. Warner maintains, “the imagination of committed students who take the lead” is not to be underestimated. But with university support and facilitation, it becomes easier to make local poverty a priority to the benefit of the community.
Pulling Our Weight Combining the opportunity to effect real change in the city with a McMaster student’s desire to help, can further the fight against local poverty. A competent and organized university effort would be a powerful force in correcting the structural injustices that afflict so many of the poor we live with in Hamilton. Often, students need only to be invited to become involved. Accessible programs are successful as evidenced by McMaster’s Community Service Learning project in Hamilton—students continued to volunteer long after their reading week placement had been completed. By becoming active in Hamilton we would no longer be blind to the poor, and significantly, we would grow to be more engaged citizens. Yet, as many anti–poverty activists remind us, service to the community should be performed with humility. There are many of us who ride the HSR into the downtown core to volunteer, wishing we had our parents’ cars we drive at home, sporting the latest style from MEC, AE and Diesel, never wanting to have to contemplate the thought of seriously shopping at a second–hand store (unless, of course, it was for a party or we wanted to be fashionably progressive). The pretentious act of reaching “down” to provide a helping hand shows little respect for the difficult lives many lead. Further, by recognizing our power as students to devote our time, energy and imagination to the community, we should recognize that no matter what some idealists believe, students alone will not save the world. And as Dr. Aronson makes clear, there are experienced people and organizations working diligently for the cause, and know the social justice terrain very well. Student hoping to make a difference are “joining a train in motion, not fixing a broken car.”
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r e t t Le m... Fro W
India By Vass Bednar and Graham Jenner
e didn’t need to come to university to find out what we wanted to be when we grew up. We both knew that somehow we’d manage to grow up and embody the intellectual and courageous idiom that is Indiana Jones. After all, isn’t that almost every young person’s dream—assuming a dangerous, smart, sexy, sweaty persona? It was that or being a ballerina. By day (the academic term), we were ambitious students dedicated to rigorous analytical study. By night (summer time), we tossed on our tourist hats, shopped for a lasso, packed our clothes in Zip–Loc bags, and ventured out into the unfamiliar to experience history, culture, new food, and a lot of other abstract concepts we weren’t prepared to encounter. It was on. We were giddy, curious, and determined to challenge ourselves—and take witty photos all the while. We hoped that there wouldn’t be any snakes. We were Graham Jenner and Vass Bednar, and we were about to embark on a journey that would later necessitate referring to ourselves in the third–person, past tense. We were going to India, baby! SESH (Social and Ecological Studies in the Himalayas) is a one–month exposure trip to North India, offered to a team of roughly twelve students, mostly from McMaster. It is one of many university trips run by an experienced and well–connected NGO worker in India named Saji Kumar, and provides an opportunity to experience India in a way that you could not do while traveling independently. The trip has roughly three parts. After a long drive in from Delhi, the team spends their first few nights at a guesthouse in Dehra Dun, the capital city of Uttaranchal. During this time, you are introduced to some aspects of Indian culture through morning yoga and Hindi lessons at the guesthouse, banking and marketing in the city, and a bit of sightseeing. Once everyone has gotten used to the heat, the team travels north into the heart of the mountains, to learn about life in the tiny and remote villages of the Himalayas and the role of NGOs in the area. SESH 2007 will include one–week stays at two different NGO campuses in the Himalayas. Most days here are spent hiking to nearby villages and interacting with village leaders, women’s groups, children, and farmers’ groups. The third part of the trip involves a journey even further north to a small village close to the Tibetan border. From there, village porters accompany the team on a challenging two–day eco–trek. At the summit, you can see the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, a protected World Heritage Site that contains the second highest mountain in India. Finally, the team returns to the Dehra Dun guesthouse and prepares for the long flight home. Depending on interest, team members can arrange to have the quintessential Indian tourist experience of visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra before heading home. You also have the opportunity to extend your trip if you want to travel in India or elsewhere after SESH (this works best when decided in advance). Saji is a great help in getting people connected with volunteer or
work opportunities if they are interested, and also in planning itineraries, booking hotel rooms and transportation for those traveling on. End of commercial. Remember when you used to go to the town fair, and you wondered why your mom let you go there unsupervised in the first place? You could get hurt (doesn’t she love you?). The day was fleeting and full of places to go and people to see. You clutched tickets in your sweaty little hands, played games, went on rides, and if you were really lucky you got a stuffed elephant out of the deal. That’s a little bit what our SESH trip was like—except the ride was a month long, there wasn’t anything that could be construed as a safety bar, there were no speed limits, and we had to bring our own toilet paper. Our month in India was simultaneously enthralling and terrifying, and abruptly over before we had time to fully comphrend what was going on in the first place. But not before we had time to crave strange Western foods and familiarity. A few things you should know about the Delhi airport. It’s hot, crowded, and there aren’t a lot of signs. Landing there was invigorating, as we were immediately sub–merged in the phenomenon of culture shock—confronted with so many different things that our displacement was almost painful. Couple this with sleep–deprived delirium, and a nightlong jeep ride punctuated with hot drinks (but it was really hot already!) and you have a recipe for a crazy Indian welcome! The traffic was literally weaving in and out everywhere. There were vikrams and motorcycles of different sizes going at different speeds and sampling traffic signals. Our first striking impression of India (in Delhi) was the blanket of bodies asleep outside. It did literally look like a bomb had gone off. People were sleeping on the street, on cars, on fountains—there was barely any free space. Imagine that the Quarters line had a collective nap on homecoming weekend; that will give you an idea. So at this point, although we were unsure exactly how, we had seen three sunrises in a period of 24 hours. We had no idea where we were. We could not really pronounce where we were going, but with each second we were moving farther away from McMaster than we had ever been before. The frenetic account of our trip continues. The journey can most easily be divided into three segments: acclimatization, exposure, and climbing a mountain. An important part is that before we settled in, we saw monkeys—“Outbreak” anyone? Arriving in Dehradun, the not–so–temporary temporary capital of India’s youngest state, we were set up in Lakshsmi Guest House, the most relatable locale we would encounter for the next month, and that’s exactly why our first week would be spent there. Our daily routine started off with early morning Yoga. Completing the lesson consisted of a very serious instruction to “rub your hands together and put them on your face”—directions that consistently incited muffled snickering into our palms. I suggest trying it at least once. We also stumbled through a handful of Hindi lessons, and day trips into the city and surrounding area. Leaving the guesthouse was a lot like swimming underwater. At first, you’re all like, “Oh my god(s)! I can’t breathe. Let’s go back!”, but with each dive you’re a little more comfortable, you can last a little longer, although you still might die. We worked hard to acclimatize and adjust the best we could before displacing ourselves further.
Our brave excursions fou of garbage with pristine te cycles with emaciated ho confused and constantly s we knew what we could e initely couldn’t, we were horrifying trip that consis precarious elevations on s rails. Along the way, we w ple walking on the side of off later at villages we pas expressions of greeting w with gratitude and a curio As you may expect, the mer is absolutely phenom trip, one of our companio hospital for dehydration. ter can be a chore and w thing as basic as consciou ids—but we got used to it Our trip through the r another guesthouse. This tains, with its small gard and a sink with running way that our adjectives do anymore to describe. We s English!) about different d erating in the surroundin control, sexual health educ eracy, and farming practic with farmers and ask the their projects. We also me who had taken over polit after facing violence and ing prohibition—the men ing too much and it was We crashed an Indian wed groom. We learned to danc children. We filmed ourse fruit for the news, and th television set to watch it a the hopes and dreams fo served as a case study: sa tics, sexual health and edu cessible by road. We were tices of schooling and to wondered about literacy— literacy rate really mean w to read? There are no libra and no need for literacy
und us contrasting rivers emples, and shiny motororses. We were frequently surprised. And just when eat and what we most defe off to the mountains—a sted of high bus speeds at slim roads without guardwould stop to pick up peof the road and drop them ssed. Our universal facial were always reciprocated ous admiration. e heat in India in the summenal. At the start of our ons had to be taken to the . Chlorinating warm wawe weren’t used to someusly replenishing our flupretty quickly after that. rural Himalayas led us to guesthouse in the mounden, bedrooms, a kitchen, water, was beautiful in a on’t have enough meaning spent two days reading (in development initiatives opg towns: sanitation, birth cation, STD treatment, litces. We even got to meet em some questions about et with a group of women tical power of their town ostracization for institutin the town were drinkcausing many problems. dding and danced with the ce with elementary school elves talking about a local hen wondered who had a anyway. We learned about or the future. Each town anitation, women in poliucation. Some were not acexposed to different pracstudents of all ages. We —what did a high or good when there isn’t anything aries, no ways to practice, in the lives many of the
people there are likely to lead. Every village met us with hospitality, and I bought a wedding necklace to fit in better with the women. The next part of the trip was a hike up the mountain in the Nandadevi biosphere. Trekking up the mountain was challenging and liberating. We spent two days getting up, one day at the top, and another day to hoof it down (which wasn’t as easy as it should have been in theory). We had trip members stopping every half hour to go to the bathroom, or throw up, or both. We were sweating. We didn’t have a lot of water. The air was getting thinner. We hadn’t showered in a while. I had my own special way of making it up the super steep very rocky zig zag “paths” that you could easily fall off: every time I made it to the coveted “corner” of a zig (or a zag) I would hum to myself “here she comes, Miss America” to celebrate my accomplishment. I recommend this technique in any situation that may have you near tears. Life in the guesthouse was an experience in itself. After returning from daytrips to different villages, we enjoyed nightly drug–enhanced super–dreams thanks to our malaria pills. We fought tennis balls of nightly hail, we battled spiders, and whenever we got bored we just chlorinated some more water. We read books, we played with the guesthouse kitten, we washed our clothes in buckets and competed for underwear room on the clothesline. We doused ourselves with buckets of water (preferably before nightfall, so you could see), we nursed sick friends, we silently thanked the gods that we weren’t sick, we got sick and cursed the gods, and we had bitchy fights about sharing toilet paper. The trip broke up after a month. Half the group stayed on to travel and the other half faced the challenge of having three days to make it to Delhi to catch a flight to Canada. Before we could do that, we took an overnight “semi–sleeper” bus (think bunk beds on top, seats underneath) to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I distinctly remember feeling like I wouldn’t make it as the bus pulled away from Deradun. I lay back in my bunk and clutched my backpack that I had clipped to a metal bar so it wouldn’t fly out the window; I had also clipped myself to the bar in case I flew out the window when asleep. Being left unattended was petrifying. Within the three–day time period in which we had to make it back to Canada a condensed whirlwind of hilarity transpired. We were led on a tour of the nearby Red Fort by a man we strongly suspected to be a pirate. We ate in a McDonald’s in Delhi, went to the Lotus Temple, the Gate of India, ventured to a tourist office, haggled with vikram drivers, and met someone whose sister got married and went to live in Ontario (!). We also had a driver who told us he was once abducted, stripped naked, beaten, and left on the side of the road to die; he then proceeded to tell us that he really liked us—he even offered to take us to his home for some dinner if we had more time. We were touched by his kindness, and loved his air–conditioned car. He let us play CDs, which is how we came to listen to “Sweet Fantasy” while driving past farms. Of course, the trip wouldn’t be a trip without its fair share of group tension. When you’re cranky, sick, tired, anxious, or confused it’s horribly convenient to become annoyed with those who surround you. I think this is true in just about any situation. The whole month was a series of ridiculous events that may have pushed us apart in moments,
but with each bus stop to pee by the side of the road, the trip ultimately drew us closer together. Our weeks were overdosed with team building, team bonding, and team anger too. There’s nothing like 24/7 with 11 other new people to get your gears going when you’re hot, tired, displaced, and sick— and being beckoned to join in yet another GROUP PHOTO! We dealt with it by cooking vegetables and “french fries” in the guesthouse kitchen, and trying to remember the words to popular songs together on the bus. Sharing bug spray always helped too. This letter also speaks to the way in which we were limited to viewing our snapshots of India: through a Western lens. The only way to describe our experiences and to make them relatable is to compare them to those experiences or media references that we know. As Goldmember might say, “Isn’t that weird?” As we emerge fresh from our teenage stardom, we’re left with only a few last sweet glimmers of adolescent pliability. Chances are, your growth plates have fused—and before you know it, your character might too. Going abroad and getting away is a chance to challenge yourself in terms of your perspective, physical and mental capabilities, and most importantly to confront and adjust your ingrained ideologies. It also gives your immune system a quarter–life tune–up. Maybe you’re looking to change your life and a new lipstick just isn’t going to cut it. Will you do it? Can you? Is there some sort of recipe for enlightenment that you can carefully follow? Might it only be a click away? Traveling abroad always promises to refresh the old perspective and at least provide intriguing shopping experiences. In many ways, we are still processing messages about love, family, work, environmental relationships, political organization, and the significance of early education. We’re also trying to secretly measure the changes in ourselves, but I think they will reveal themselves in the future. The question we’re always getting asked/asking ourselves is “why did we go?” Was it one part character development, one part needing to not be trapped in southern Ontario for yet another whole summer, and one part feeling peer pressured to do something like this (all the Healthscis are doing it!). Or was it just a Las Vegas shotgun wedding of third–world political interest and daring? Whatever it was, it had to be done—and we are grateful. Questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or e s u
e’s e r h
ny a p om
By Chris Evans, Zsuzsi Fodor, and Debjani Poddar
By J e n n
t had been eight months since either of us had gone through the keycard–protected doors of a residence building. Nostalgically, we examined the CA photographs displayed in the lobby while waiting for the elevator. We (Zsuzsi and Chris) were heading up to meet Debjani in her Mary E. Keyes suite, ironically to compose an overdue feature about off–campus housing. All three of us are in second year and are finishing up the final days of class before exams begin. Around this time last year, with the end of residence life looming, we all faced decisions about where we would live next September. Debjani had developed a matrimonial liking for the convenience of residence life and decided that she would hang around the system for another year. In contrast, Chris chose to cement his platonic relationship with partner Dave in their self–titled “rustic nook”–style apartment on Main Street. Zsuzsi took another route, opting for a five–person house in the centre of Westdale. And so we sat beneath the blaring screech of the weekly Keyes fire alarm test, reflecting on our time in res and discussing how our respective living conditions had unfolded thus far. Zsuzsi: I’m glad my days of midnight fire alarms are over. Residence served its purpose for me. I met some awesome people and integrated into campus, but I was looking forward to moving out. Only so many times could I tolerate stepping over passed–out Quarters–goers outside my door on my way to the bathroom, or fighting with gaggles of Leafs fans for possession of the television when Gilmore Girls was on. I developed late–night work habits, which like any unhealthy ritual, required copious snacking. Checking the time to be sure not to miss my 11:45 PM “Commons run” was stressful, not to mention repeatedly disappointing—the selection tended to be meagre. I’m fond of my liver so I steered clear of Sizzles and often had to settle for several hummus platters for dinner instead. Chris: Residence was definitely fun and a great way to get into first year, but for some reason, I feel more at home in my apartment than I ever did in my res room. In residence, I couldn’t help but feel that I was just passing through the system—even though it was a delightful system. Although renting an apartment is pretty much the same idea, I think of it more as a space that I own. Plus, choosing who you live with is a bonus. I don’t have too much faith in the powers of a Scantron in pairing compatible roommates. Zsuzsi: I got hit hard by the house–hunting fervor that began to spread in second term, just like that cold my whole floor caught during Welcome Week. I was ready to upgrade my Woodstock shoebox, as I politely describe it, to something at least the size of a recycling bin. The uncharted territory of off–campus housing was, however, frightening and required a lot more work than filling out a Housing and Conference Services questionnaire. With the off–campus housing office tucked away in the basement of the student centre, macocho.com, and the colourful flyers handed out by the CAs, it was almost as if there were too many resources, each pointing to houses located on faraway streets we had never heard of before. A moment of silence followed as we solemnly pondered the trials and tribulations we had faced one year before. Deb, forced to sit quietly while the others mocked
her housing lifestyle, had wandered off. When conversation finally resumed, we quickly agreed that the foremost challenge was not in finding a house, but finding housemates. Chris: I think picking housemates is the hardest part of the whole process, because it can get very personal and angst–ridden. Dave and I were destined for each other, but most people aren’t as lucky. There’s a lot of unnecessary worrying that goes into these decisions; it’s easy to get extremely analytical, and to start scrutinizing your potential housemates relentlessly. Are they clean enough? Are they too loud or too quiet? How do they act towards small animals? Aside from things that would obviously bother you, all you can really do is rely on your intuition. Oddly enough, the idea of living with certain people, even good friends, can bother you in some indescribable way. These sorts of hunches are the best indication you can go with, rather than trying to work out some convoluted list of pros and cons. Zsuzsi: No matter how well you get along in first year, amalgamating your lives under a shared roof is a crapshoot. I live with four of the best friends I made in first year, but we were all hesitant about how we would fare as roommates in Ishtar (the name we gave our house after the Babylonian Goddess of Sex and Love). Looking back on the last three months, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not just saying this because of the 79 percent chance that my housemates will read this. Any housing issues that have come up have been trivial and are far outweighed by America’s Next Top Model cuddling parties and passing time together watching Westdale go by from our front stoop. Chris: It seems kind of natural to segue into a big house with a mob of friends after res. The two–person apartment seems more the domain of upper–years, but Dave and I have always been a step ahead of our peers. We’re probably missing out on some of the constant activity and buzz that comes from living in a big house, but also avoiding a lot of the problems that an arrangement of that size can entail. When there’s an unidentified growth flourishing in an anonymous Tupperware at the back of the fridge, it’s much easier to figure out whose it is. Our apartment is named “the Open Field of Opposedness”, in honour of the near–subject of a philosophy essay. Compared to Ishtar, our apartment may sound kind of lame. Dave and I don’t advertise. We know the true home of Mesopotamia’s goddess of sultry love, but we have to maintain pretences so his girlfriend won’t get mad. Deb was concerned. Chris and Zsuzsi, who had already dominated the conversation to this point, were angling towards a chat on the art of house buying. She was starting to wonder if she’d ever get the chance to say something. If only they hadn’t decided on having this conversation in her living room. Chris: Looking back, finding a house seems like a pretty simple procedure. Once you’ve settled on who you’re living with, it’s really just a matter of poking around until you find something satisfactory. At the time, of course, this is not a comforting thought. You don’t know where to look, and when you think you’ve found something, it’s hard to know whether you should take it or wait for something better.
There’s even the dim possibility that you wont find anything and have to sheepishly crawl back onto campus and face the taunts of the CA you thought you’d never see again. The stress is unavoidable. What makes me so relaxed about it now, I think, is that everyone I know eventually found a place with which they’re happy. Zsuzsi: I enjoyed living close to my classes last year, but being in Westdale is even more convenient. I can see the TCBY, the cupcake store, and Walker’s Chocolates from my front stoop. Westdale has this snazzy community feel to it. It’s nice to escape from campus at the end of the day. When you’re living in residence, everyone you ever see and interact with is affiliated with McMaster. There’s a whole city out there, and it includes frozen yogurt, cupcakes, and chocolate. In Westdale, the furthest you ever have to walk to fulfill your needs is to the Barn for groceries, which I stylishly wheel home in my metal granny buggy. I also love having the option of going to QQ’s for a bubble tea or Second Cup for a latté instead of succumbing to the Tim Hortons/Van Houtte warm beverage monopoly on campus. I realize all the points I’ve raised in favour of Westdale have to do with food and drink, which was somewhat unconscious. It emphasizes the point Learn to embrace the state though that one of the of your residence bathroom. largest adjustments to make when living Last year, I always treated off–campus is feeding mine like an art gallery putting yourself without the luxury of your student on an extremely avant-garde card. A trip to the barn exhibition: shoes were strictly is more time consuming and physically denecessary, the atmosphere manding than a Comwas stifling, and touching mons run, hence the granny buggy, but I things was a very bad idea. welcome the freedom to cook for myself. While I was excited about the new nutrition options that off–campus living would open, I feared the beating that my sleeping regime would take. I knew the luxury of between–class naps would come to an end. Living in residence was conducive to my post–calculus pre–biology slumber, but there was no way I would be able to make it to Ishtar and back to campus in time. I also had to go through a rough breakup. My snooze button and I had been intimate for quite sometime. There was no difference between waking up at 7:45 AM and 8:25 AM when my first class was only a five minute walk past Faculty Hollow. But now, I’ve had to limit the number of times I hit that luscious, gargantuan button every morning. Some days, in a moment of weakness, I tap it one too many times. On these mornings, I opt out of walking to campus and am at the mercy of the sporadic schedule of the HSR to get me to campus on time. Chris: Learn to embrace the state of your residence bathroom. Last year, I always treated mine like an art gallery putting on an extremely avant–garde exhibition: shoes were strictly necessary, the atmosphere was stifling, and touching things was a very bad idea. This situation is pretty much the norm at the Open Field of Opposedness, but now I find myself oddly at ease with it. Perhaps it’s the comfort of knowing that I am at least partially the cause of whatever grime is encrusted on a given surface. For example, I was bothered at first by the vast swaths of hair piled underneath the bathroom radiator. Rather than cleaning it up, I underwent a difficult but reward-
ing process of reconciliation. At first I blamed my roommate, thinking myself incapable of producing such an enormous volume in the space of only a few days. Next, I came to doubt myself. Perhaps my sister—with whom I share a bathroom at home—had been covering for me, hiding some kind of embarrassing shedding abnormality even from myself. Lastly, I came to accept the hair not merely as mine or his, or even a sum of the two of us, but something that is the both of ours, complete and indivisible. It is something we share; an organic, concrete being in which our two individualities coexist and are unified into a greater whole. Through it, we don’t merely live together, we are housemates. After listening to us slander residence life for a good half hour, Deb could no longer keep her peace. She had to point out that while we may have found domestic bliss off–campus, many upper years find residence to be the most attractive housing choice. Debjani: I fail to see how the more enjoyable experiences of upper–year living you spoke of are unique to off–campus inhabitants; in fact, most of them are amplified or even improved if you live on campus. I chose to live in residence again this year not because I was frightened by the world outside McMaster, but because of the massive convenience and, as you both put it several times, the sheer luxury we all felt in first year. When the temperature outside is below–zero and Swanson Hungry Man dinners don’t have quite the same appeal as the lumberjack on the box seems to think, isn’t it comforting to have the option of walking downstairs to the Keyes lobby for a variety of food choices? I have the ability to do laundry, send mail, buy milk, and speak to a University administrator all within my residence building. Those long lost days of seemingly endless slumber lamented by Zsuzsi? Those days are my reality, my unrested friends. Many a time, I’ve offered my suite’s couch to weary off–campus dwellers seeking refuge on long trips between classes and their distant abodes. Being exceedingly aware of my penchant for procrastination and distraction, I know that living on campus grants me the ability to work on assignments up until the deadline, instead of self–caffeinating to stay awake and create less than stellar final products. Though passing Cupcakes every morning might suffice for a quick energy boost, I prefer having my exam rooms, classes, and group meetings within 15 minutes of my residence’s front door, especially on days where the weather is not entirely cooperative. I admit I’ve received more than a few raised eyebrows in response to telling people I still live in residence. But when people envision me living in a crowded, messy, three–bed hole with random eccentrics I had the misfortune of being Scantronically–matched to, they are grossly mistaken. I live with three of my close friends in a Keyes corner suite—the very people and room style I requested last February on the Mac Residence Application. We went through none of the hassles of renting or buying living quarters off campus. We never had to endure the notoriously long process of finding a suitable home, subletting, negotiating with absentee landlords, and buying furniture. And yet we still receive many of the same benefits: independence, our own customizable space, and individual rooms. I might also mention that a couple of familiar Incite contributors were thoroughly impressed with my suite during their visit, but don’t let that sway your choice on which style of living arrangements is right for you. With that, the conversation drew to a close. The three of us came to the mutual conclusion that there is no right answer. Decisions about upper–year housing are personal, and no two sets of experiences will jive. And so, we returned to our respective abodes, all content with that which we had chosen.
Smarter Spending: legistlating acountable foreign aid?
The bulk of Canada’s foreign aid is currently allotted at the discretion of the government; there are no legislated rules or even guidelines on how aid monies should be spent. Bill C–293, also know as the Development Assistance Accountability Act, aims to change this by making poverty eradication the explicit goal of Canada’s development aid. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that “all Canadian development assistance abroad is provided with a central focus on poverty reduction and in a manner consistent with Canadian values, Canadian foreign policy and international human rights standards.” Additionally, the bill proposes that accountability be increased for aid by the creation of a committee to review the results of aid and hear any feedback from the recipient countries. Proposed by Liberal MP John McKay, and supported by the all three opposition parties, bill C–293 passed its second reading in November, and was sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee before its third and final reading. Although there is widespread dissatisfaction with how aid is currently distributed, whether C–293 is the right approach is contentious. Critics argue that the bill’s vague language and potentially expensive accounting measures do little to promote better aid. To explore the implications of this bill on Canadian aid Incite recruited Stephanie Tom to suggest that the bill should be approved as soon as possible, and Ana Nikolic to argue against its adoption.
Prioitizing Poverty By Stephanie Tom
or many Canadians, the role our nation plays in supporting the development of Third World countries is crucial to our national identity. Whether it’s peacekeeping in Lebanon, or just being labeled as famously polite, we seem to be a cheery lot of do–gooders, albeit in a tame sort of way. It is about time we cement the Canadian ideals of humanitarianism into law, which is what the Development Assistance Accountability Act does. Although there is broad agreement that aid should reduce poverty, the steps the Canadian government can take to make this development sustainable are controversial. Fostering sustainable development, defined as that which “meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” is a lofty goal that has proven difficult to meet. When it comes to the complex issue of international development, the means don’t guarantee the ends; planned actions do
not always help achieve well–intentioned goals, whether it is building a school in Kenya or drafting a legislative document. It takes time and a lot of thought to cover the bases, assess things as they truly are, and understand what their potential may be. Although lacking grandeur, the strength of C–293 lies in its push for incremental change rather than empty rhetoric. Like many developed nations, Canada tends to hand out aid on the condition that it is used to buy goods and services from our domestic suppliers. This approach denies local developers the opportunity to improve their skills and increase employment. Furthermore, a lot of Canadian development aid is wasted on pricey consultants, poor coordination, and administrative costs, which include housing and transportation connected with aid work. In 2004–2005, $1 billion out of the $3.74 billion spent by Ottawa on international assistance was frittered away on over-
Wasted Paper By Ana Nikolic
anada has an awkward relationship with foreign aid; our politicians boast to us of Canada’s commitment to international development, yet internationally we are plagued with complaints that we are not doing enough. External and internal pressures to increase foreign aid are constant, and instances of aid not going to the right places call into question the management of governmental aid efforts. Bill C–293 is Liberal MP John MacKay’s proposed solution to these problems. Unfortunately, the bill as it stands is hardly a solution. The main weakness of C–293 is its brief, general nature and vague language. For example, responsibility for handing out development assistance is assigned to a “competent minister”, without specifying any particular minister. Furthermore, the supposedly key part of the bill is the vague requirement that the minister’s decisions “take into account the perspectives of the poor.” The other goals enumerated in the bill
are equally obvious and unsubstantiated. The minister “may” contact NGOs and other sources of information to make his or her decision on the appropriateness of a particular project. The bill also calls for the Minister of International Cooperation (this time not the “competent minister”) to establish a committee, which would evaluate existing development efforts and recommend necessary corrective actions. The members of this committee are appointed and paid according to the judgment of the Minister. Because of the appointed nature of the committee, it could very easily become perfunctory, and would have little incentive to take corrective action. Furthermore, the committee is just another layer of bureaucracy, added onto what is already a very complicated process. Running such a committee and maintaining it would not only slow down aid delivery, but would also increase the delivery costs. Additionally, the committee has no
head. Whether at a U2 concert or hurrying through the student center, orange Make Poverty History T–shirts have been ubiquitous for some years. The campaign calls for more and better aid for the developing world; it is a common rally–cry heard everywhere, from student booths to celebrity visits to Africa. Ottawa is constantly reassuring us that millions of dollars are being poured into development assistance. But is more actually better? Shouldn’t we be wondering what portion of this “increased aid” is actually going where it’s needed? How often are these millions being spent paying Canadian consultants living in urban hotel suites to direct projects that would be better run by an experienced, local advisor? Certainly, very few people would agree that “less is more” in scenarios regarding the quantity of development aid (arguably, no more than people would want to be accused of hating puppies). In this respect, bill C–293 is an interesting read since it doesn’t push for more aid dollars but focuses on the quality of aid being delivered. In other words, the bill seeks to ensure that aid money actually gets to the projects intended and meaningfully contributes to poverty eradication. Furthermore, bill C–293 is centered on development assistance as opposed to humanitarian assistance, the latter being defined as budget allocated to
say in the initial decision to give development aid nor the nature of the aid given, but is limited to recommending corrective action. Interestingly enough, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has recognized the need for an Aid Effectiveness Advisory Committee since 1994, a plea that the government has largely ignored. A committee of people with a significant amount of experience in development would be most effective if it was involved in actually making the initial decision to give aid, rather than solely cleaning up the mess that was created by someone else. Having a committee of experts is sensible, but this bill focuses their talents on the wrong part of the process. The bill specifies that petitioning will regulate the corrective function of the bill. Under this part of the act, any person from the developing country who thinks that the development aid Canada’s giving is not working as it should (e.g. is being spent in the wrong way, is insufficient, etc.) can write a letter to the Committee, which will look at it, and pass it on to the competent minister. This is an excellent idea in principle; it would allow feedback from the people who are most heavily affected by the development efforts—the citizens of the developing country themselves. But the massive influx
deal with sudden events, such as a tsunami, where the goal is to simply save the most lives as quickly as possible. The goal of this bill is to focus on aid that will support the sustainable development of poor nations in an effort to eradicate poverty in the long run. As of now, the bill is being reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) where changes are being made to fine–tune its points before it is packed off for a final House of Commons vote. A final vote may, however, be some way off as the house will recess for Christmas shortly and an election threatens soon after Parliament reconvenes. But for now, here is the lowdown on the initial draft of the bill, and its current Botox treatment by the FAC to smooth out any wrinkles that
of paperwork would result in yet another layer of bureaucratic goodness. In addition, the idea itself is not particularly feasible—those directly affected by Canadian development projects may have a limited ability to articulate their complaints in French or English to the correct body. As a concept, it would be nice; but unfortunately, it is unrealistic. On top of including a summary of each petition they received during the year, the report committee would essentially have to present summaries of reports that are already required under other government acts. The only difference under bill C–293 is that the Minister of International Cooperation will have to present them. These reports only tell us how much money Canada is giving and to whom, but do not contain any measures of the appropriateness or efficiency of the aid. Furthermore, the
might cause an MP to cringe. In its original form, the bill called for the creation of an Advisory Committee for the International Development Cooperation composed of a mélange of NGOs, foundations, corporations, and individuals, providing diverse perspectives and expertise. This committee was intended to enhance accountability of aid spending. Ideally, the advisory committee would comprise of individuals or organizations with specific expertise pertaining to the project in question as opposed to a set committee that may not have sufficient working knowledge of all subject areas being discussed. However, there’s a catch to all of this. The committee aspect may get axed before MPs vote on the bill again since providing committee members with a salary would require the inclusion of the bill into budget legislation, unlikely under the current government. Of course, this is all still in hypothetical terms as official amendments have not been released at the time of writing. Oh, the woe of paperwork and formal processes! In addition to increased oversight, bill C–293 also strives to take into consideration the perspectives of the poor via a unique petitioning process. Citizens of recipient nations are encouraged to voice their concerns directly to the minister in charge of a project. More specifically, the bill would require that project ministers Continued top of page 22
cost of implementing these new reporting procedures has not been examined, and could be substantial. Since it was originally proposed, a foreign affairs committee led by John MacKay, the author of the bill, has proposed some amendment. The main amendment proposed was the complete removal of the committee and associated reporting, including removal of petitioning. Ironically, these measures, although unrealistic, had potential to improve the accountability of Canada’s foreign aid. Now that they have been removed, what is left? All the bill will do if the amendments go through is define the idea of the “competent minister”, suggest that he should consult with some people before making decisions, and force the Minister of International Cooperation to prepare an annual report, much of which will be a rehash of other required government reports. This bill also acts as a smokescreen for the Liberals; it creates an illusion that the party is improving development aid, while avoiding making good on more costly promises like Canada’s commitment to increase development aid to 0.7 percent of GDP. In its amended form, the bill does little to increase accountability. After all, the “competent minister” is not required to alter the way development aid is distributed. Furthermore, the supposed increase in transContinued bottom of page 18
(Prioritizing Poverty Continued) (affectionately known as “competent ministers”) respond and justify their decisions in cases where it is evident that results have been other than those proposed. This clause was initially included in an effort to boost accountability of aid money and to take into account the perspectives of the poor. Sadly, this clause may be ironed out in the name of dollars. After all, having ministers obliged to respond to recipient of aid around the world could lead to excessive administrative costs. Will the bill then be left a hollow shell? Fear not, modifications are to be expected when sent to the FAC. Even with the potential makeover, the bill won’t be destroyed. In fact, the removal of the petitioning process, despite its uniqueness, may prove to be necessary; ministers need the time and flexibility to address more immediate concerns. Also, instead of the original concept of a more permanent and static committee to review all projects, there has been movement towards specific committees for each type of project. This would better allow the expertise in the committees to be fully utilized in the coordination and implementation of poverty eradication projects. Enshrining this bill into Canadian law would help allow Canada take on a bigger and more proportionate role on the international stage. This legislation would bind the hands of all future governments, preventing them from using aid as a political tool. Furthermore, all three party leaders, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe, sent
(Wasted Paper Continued) parency required in the bill will in fact be marginal. The Minister of International Cooperation will only get the monetary figures that are going to each country, perhaps a brief description of the project, but little other than that. Transparency as to where aid money is going is one of the biggest problems with Canada’s development aid and remains unresolved with this legislation. Furthermore, a large portion of Canada’s aid is channeled through international organizations. This subcontracting does not guarantee accountability, as it relies on the initiative of the organizations spending this money to operate efficiently––a criterion that may not necessarily be met. For example, during reconstruc-
GRAPHICS BY ANDREW MOK
an open letter to then–Prime Minister Paul Martin earlier this year saying that legislation should include an unequivocal statement of purpose making poverty reduction the lens through which Canada’s aid programs are delivered. They stated that this plan should include mechanisms for monitoring, accountability, reporting to Parliament, and enhanced public transparency. Unfortunately, a few months’ time and one change of government later, the bold support articulated in these statements seems to have been lost among certain MPs. The current minority government promotes itself as a paragon of accountability. But as it currently stands, privacy laws prevent many budget breakdowns from being released to the public. Right now, our government has promised $310 million for Afghanistan. Much of this money is being spent on sustaining the current war—should this really count as development aid? Where are the figures to help us break free of the binary “with us or against us” way of thinking? Although the necessity of more regular and open reporting to Parliament and Canadians can be dismissed as “more paperwork,” it does make the government and its development affiliates more accountable. Knowing where our tax dollars are spent should never be dismissed as an administrative nuisance.
With 159 MPs who voted in favour and 108 against at the second reading, this is not a tight squeeze as Parliament votes go, but the looming election does threaten to halt its progress. Although this bill is in no way the elixir of development, it sets a solid precedent by finally forcing Canada as a nation to acknowledge that poverty reduction is a national priority. From this, bill C–293 paves the ground for future bills that promote a dynamic yet collaborative approach to aid. Even this bill alone sets something of an international precedent by outlining what individual ministers must do as opposed to more wide–ranging legislation found in the U.K. and Belgium. It’s time to do more than wear a white band by letting our MPs (and after that, our Senators!) know what they should be voting for. Let’s get started on making poverty history.
tion efforts in Afghanistan, foreign agencies were building schools for about US $250 000 per school, while local contractors would have accomplished the same at a fifth of the price. An effective accountability measure would require external methods of evaluation, and efficiency assessments of these international agencies, to ensure that Canadian money works its hardest. Oversight of NGOs is, however, absent from this bill. A final segment of the bill mandates the adoption of development assistance as it is defined by the OECD. The main benefit of this would be that it would officially prevent the use of development assistance funds for military purposes. However, Canada’s development agency, CIDA already has some rules in place to prevent funding being used for military purposes. This bill does nothing to address Canada’s restrictive rules on aid, nor Canadian trade practices that are damaging to developing economies. Take for example, Canada’s food aid policies. Until October 2005, 90 percent of the food aid provided by Canada had to be of Canadian origin. In the case of the 2005 tsunami, this made the distribution of food aid a logistical nightmare. After amendments in 2005, 50 percent of food aid may be of foreign origin. Yet Canadian farmers are still allowed to “dump” expired or excess food onto foreign markets, effectively undercutting farmers in the developing world. Such policies are harmful, and eliminating them is far more critical than delivering
aid more smoothly. Bill C–293 sensibly formalizes the separation of emergency humanitarian aid from development aid, but then proceeds to ignore humanitarian aid entirely. Humanitarian aid is also in need of improved accountability measures, none of which are outlined in bill C–293. For example, the formula used by CIDA for tsunami relief was highly problematic, as it was directly biased towards organizations that had better mechanisms of fund–raising, and had little regard for organizations with high on–ground effectiveness. A more complex framework for evaluating the efficiency of development efforts would be required to truly increase Canadian aid accountability. However, such a framework would not be cheap and would require a significant amount of labour. To increase the benefits to recipient countries, Canada will have to make two key changes. First we must dramatically increase our financial commitment to foreign aid. Second, this increased aid budget must be coupled with the creation of a committee with an effective means of evaluation. Canada needs to be accountable for its spending of development aid, and Canada needs to increase its overall commitment. Nevertheless, in either its original or amended form, bill C–293 is not fit to do the job it proposes to do. It is a band–aid solution to a much deeper problem, and passing it would create a false confidence in the effectiveness of our development efforts.
ountries from around the world come together annually to discuss one of the most pressing issues of our time: climate change. This year, the United Nations Climate Change Conference—where all the details of the Kyoto Protocol are hashed out—is in Nairobi, Kenya. This is my second time attending a UN climate conference, but my first time experiencing such a deep sense of frustration. From dawn to dusk each day it seems we aren’t getting anywhere; when we go home at night, driving past the slums of the city and hearing stories of drought from farmers affected climate change, I wonder if the connection between developing country hardships and industrialized country luxuries will be made with the urgency required. It is 10:02 PM and my feet are up in the library in the basement of the United Nations complex. I sit with a laptop warming my thighs, and five more busy bodies typing away on laptops around me. A beer lingers nearby and cellphones work away their batteries. Eyes droop and ties loosen, but the work doesn’t stop. We are developing press releases. We are talking about lobbying. We are planning our strategy. We are detailing a day that is a step towards our future. We are stuck in a space where we work ourselves to the edge because we don’t want the rest of the world to be pushed to the edge. As we reach the “high–level” segment of the conference—when the discussion ends, and the decisions begin—every country is moving forward more slowly than a slug stuck in Alberta’s tar sands. The negotiations have stalled. This is not something new, but is becoming increasingly frustrating as climate change grows more serious by the day. The worst part is that half the countries are saying the same things, and aiming for the same goals, but are using different vocabulary. The negotiators at the UN are all bureaucrats— i.e. people who work within the government, sent by politicians, to work out an agreement with other bureaucrats. The politicians send off their representatives with a position, and are instructed to defend it to the end. There is little room for compromise. So why am I here? What’s the point if the process is so apt to stalling and so stuck in the grasps of bureaucracy? I am here, with 20 other self–fundraised Canadian youth, to jump into this process. Believe it or not, we go to these conferences to integrate into this
mess, with a goal to unravel the knots. The beauty of the youth movement is that we see these issues with a sense of simplicity. We break down the policy and see it for what it is—a tool to leverage concrete action that will actually change the situation we are in. The Ministers of the Environment arrived with four days of negotiations to go. I have met with Minister Rona Ambrose three days in a row, including 45 minutes of hard–nosed questioning, 15 minutes of planning student engagement in government decisions on climate change, and 2 hours of hors d’oeuvres, wine and dancing at the Canadian High Commissioner’s. In 72 hours she has moved from saying, “Our Kyoto commitments are impossible” to “Our views have evolved so that our domestic policies can parallel that of Kyoto. We didn’t have the knowledge of Kyoto before that we do now.” Is it progress? Or is it rhetoric? It is evident that public opinion and concern for the environment are finally getting through to the Canadian Government. The rhetoric has improved, but the fact remains that all actions taken to date have dropped Canada behind the rest of the world. We are the only Kyoto country publicly admitted that we will miss our targets. As the discussions draw to a close, I feel bewildered, slightly disappointed, and a little confused. How could last year’s conference have been so progressive and this year’s so uneventful? Welcome to international politics, Zoë. Here is what has happened in the last two weeks: • Developed countries with targets under the Kyoto Protocol agreed on a work plan to set targets for greenhouse gas reductions beyond 2012. • The Kyoto Protocol was reviewed, and will be reviewed a little more at next year’s conference (i.e. what is working, what isn’t). • Countries agreed to work on making it easier for developing nations to join Kyoto by possibly starting with voluntary versus mandatory commitments. (This is a sticky issue because it lowers accountability, but at the same time allows more countries to be part of the work.) • Details of the Adaptation Fund (cash for projects in developing countries that will help pay for damages caused by climate change) were agreed upon. • The issue of deforestation (which is
over 20 percent of the climate problem) was bumped to a workshop in the spring. • Developed countries refused to give funds to developing countries for new sustainable technologies. The overarching goal is now to get countries to agree to a package deal (a “mandate”) that would take the outcomes of all of the above decisions, and set a strict timeline of one year—two at the most—to finish these talks. This agreement needs to happen to ensure there are continual and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We had 12 days. We had 12 days to influence one of the most important set of negotiations in the entire world. You get sucked into the nitty gritty by at least Day 5, and are almost delirious by Day 10. But even the nitty gritty needs to be taken in moderation. Those lobbyists and leaders in the climate movement that can balance the details with the bigger picture are admirable. It's just like any other process in life: you must have faith that some systems are actually functional and are helping you achieve your goal. You also need to recognize that you are only in the world once. Tangled in all these late nights and strategizing is a beautiful sense of belonging. There is an incredible building of friendship. There is a strong sense of community. We take the time to dance. We take the time to learn. We are teaching each other and meeting new people and setting a foundation for our future, whatever it might look like. We are also being hit with cultural differences and social divides—and at the same time, finding comforting similarities between people. Bureaucrats or politicians, industry or non–governmental organizations, young students or seasoned lobbyists, we're all in this together. As President Bill Clinton said at last year’s conference in Montreal, “If we all work together on this, it's hard to see how we can fail. And if we don't, it's hard to see how we can succeed.” From nitty gritty to broader horizons, it's up to us. Period. www.cydnairobi.ca
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Buy A Computer, Not A Headache_
‘m glad that you’re reading this, that I got to you before THEY did. Who are THEY? THEY are the ones who want you to buy a computer you don’t want or need. THEY are everywhere: FutureShop, Best Buy, the vent in your house without a grate… THEY do not know you; only you know yourself. This is why I have given you this codex—no, this bible—of how to purchase a computer. Buying a computer is like choosing a mate—a difficult process that requires a lot of thought even at its best. At its worst, the process can be a nightmare. But what is important in both situations is that you know what you want and need. This article will send you on an enlightening journey of world–shattering proportions* and it begins with the next word.
Laptop, Desktop, or No Top? Laptop
Advantages Laptops are so useful that one day the Swiss Army will completely drop the hoax and adopt them as the new Swiss Army utility tool. They can check your WebCT, write an essay, play a game, chat on MSN, do a quiz, and hold your school schedule, all from wherever you bring them. Instead of being chained to a desk, laptop users have been known to use their computers in the MUSC, in bed, on a couch, in a verdant field of soft grass gently blowing in the spring breeze, and in World 1–1 of Super Mario 3 (keep an eye on the flying Goomba). Also, laptops have given rise to the sport of “Wireless Hopping”. The rules of the game are, while you’re waiting at a bus stop (or pretty much anywhere else), open up your laptop and check to see if you can pick up someone’s wireless connection from inside their house. If you do, you win! The prize? Free Internet. Disadvantages Remember when Genie turned Jafar into a genie as well and he was gushing about all the power that was now his? Well, I hate to break it to you, but he was not a laptop. Laptops are always slower than an equivalently priced desktop. And you also have to keep in mind the perpetual outlet hunt. As soon as you unplug, your battery begins to drain, and you can feel the little timer ticking. On a side note, have fun trying to upgrade your laptop by adding things like a DVD drive; not only is the physical space available an issue, but trying to find parts that will actually work with your laptop is a difficult process in itself.
Advantages If a laptop is a kitten, an equally–priced desktop (bought wisely) is pretty much a mutant mountain lion. On steroids. Desktops have the potential to do far more things than laptops because they’re always faster. And as a bonus, you can make them stronger over time with ease because hardware manufacturers are more inclined to produce for the greater demographic (desktops). Another advantage is that when something’s broken inside most desktops, it’s relatively easy to get a replacement part.
*Actual Results May Vary
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Disadvantages You don’t have very many options for sitting at a desktop, and for prolonged work (or play) sessions, you definitely will start to feel it unless you have a really good desk/chair/computer arrangement. Another disadvantage is the fact that your machine is not going anywhere without a fight. Once that mutant mountain lion has sat down on a desk, chances are it will not move for a long while.
What kind of computer? In most cases, your computer is sold to you with the Operating System (the interface that lets you run programs and whatnot), so it’s definitely something you should check out before you drop a grand or more on whatever computer.
For the funky indie hipster in all of us. Not for the conservative spender in all of us, unfortunately. Macs are generally more expensive, because they are just generally niftier than your boring Windows OS (Operating System). With a bunch of Apple-exclusive products crafted from the finest “i” prefixes, when you buy a Mac, you’re set to go right out of the box. Unfortunately, compatibility issues will arise when you try to put just any old program on your Mac. A lot of programs are designed for Windows only (especially games and smallbudget applications), but there are quite a few large mainstream programs which offer Mac versions. (Technically, you can run any program available by loading both Windows and MacOS onto your computer, but let’s not get into that.) Remember, though: it’s a far more difficult process to upgrade a Mac than a Windows-based PC, so when you buy, it’s a serious commitment. Possibly more serious than marriage. Although Macs are fancy and fun, some people won’t take kindly to these sleek machines.
You may love it or hate it, but either way, most of us are forced to use Windows on a regular basis. Windows is the mainstream OS, so it’s packaged with most PCs you buy. Windows is an easy–to-learn OS, and despite the high frequency of Windows-focused viruses, it is constantly improving itself. The best thing about Windows is compatibility. You can go to any old computer store and buy parts and software for your computer, and possibly even install them yourself without too much grief. Windows is straight to the point, and works well on any configuration of computer. But, being the mainstream OS, it is weak from the lack of competition, and leaves many screaming for something better.
You shouldn’t use Linux if you need to read this.
Penny Pinch or Power Purchase? This section will deal with wants and needs. Do you really need the $500 GeForce 7950 GX2? Or are you just fine with the $25 ATI Rage 128 Pro? Is it mandatory that you get optical in/out on your sound card? Do you even have any idea what that means? Try to know your wants versus your needs when you’re buying a computer. Now you may be leaning away from buying a packaged computer from FutureShop or Staples or wherever because you heard there were cheaper ways to go, but there are definately pros to buying these underpowered machines. In fact, I’m writing this article on a used laptop from Factory Direct. You can’t get much more messed up than that. Why’d I buy it when it’s coventional wisdom not to go near these mistakes? It was cheap, dirt cheap. With the low price, I could afford an extended warranty; therefore if it does flop early, I’m covered. It took some cleaning up to remove Norton and other promotional software from my machine once I got it home, but it was a five to ten minute job. No sweat, no tears, no AOL abuse. Having said that, if you do have the money, investing in a good custom–assembled computer is a solid choice if you will be using it often and for demanding applications (MSN, Word, and Solitaire are not considered demanding). If you’re saving up for such a purchase, find yourself a good, level–headed, and computer–savvy friend who can help you out and not necessarily push you towards the most expensive thing out there. My advice for buying the best computer possible is: don’t. If you want to get the best, find out what the best parts are, and then take one step down. Prices may drop anywhere from 20% to 50% for the most miniscule differences. Believe me, it’s just plain not worth it. Of course this entire section was referring to Windows–based machines. If you want a Mac, your choices are much simpler: something like seven. The same principles apply though: buy what you need, not what you want.
What To Ask When You’re At The Computer Store Yes, yes. You’re at the front desk and you can see the box which holds the machine of your dreams. You just want to grab it with your sweaty little hands and run home to fire it up, but you really should calm yourself down and ask some good questions before you pay for what might be a big mistake.
Question 1: Repairs?
It’s possibly one of the most important things to ask about, especially if you’re not computer–handy. You need to know if they have in–house technicians who can fix up your rig in a relatively short amount of time. I wouldn’t put up with anything more than a week’s time for a simple fix. Many of the mainstream companies have a cost and time–effective method for fixing computers: erase all data on the hard drive, and reinstall the Operating System. This is a bad thing because you lose your computer for a week or more, you lose all the files on your computer, and you pay a lot for them to do it. That brings me to the next section in the “repairs” question: warranty. How long are you insured for? What kind of damage? In–house or manufacturer warranty? Manufacturer warranties usually mean you have to ship your computer off to a far–away plant (which may be very far off in some cases), and you should generally avoid being in a position where you have to use it. Bottom line: get an in–house warranty; it really is for the best.
Question 2: Upgrades?
Another good thing to ask about is upgrades. If you’re not itching to open your computer up and install new hardware yourself, then for the love of [insert religious figure here] don’t even try. Spend the few extra dollars and get the people at your computer store to do it for you. Or, a better option would be to pay your local nerd half as much, and get it done in one tenth of the time.
Question 3: Special Offers?
Sometimes you can get free stuff with a packaged Windows computer, such as a printer, speakers, or a winged mongoose. I would capitalize on these offers, as free stuff is free stuff. Also mongooses are hard to find in this season, never mind the flying variety. Take time and see what’s the best thing out there for you.
Question 4: Upcoming price drops?
Hell is where people are made to endure the worst event possible over and over again until The Rapture. This event has been described in the holy texts: Not a week from the date that thou hast purchased thy computer, the price shall dropeth to a state of $200 less. Keep an eye on things like new technologies or products which may be released close to when you buy your computer, and could drive the price down. Also keep your eyes peeled for going–out–of–business, renovation, old–stock, or any other kind of sale.
Question 5: Is this really what I want?
When you’re just about to buy your computer (unless it’s a time–specific deal), stop, go home, and rethink your purchase. Is this really what I want? Is it within my budget? Is the service decent? Have I heard good things about this dealer? Is the company MDG? (If it is, don’t you dare go through with the purchase.)
The Holy Lexicon Of Technogrammatical Terminology RAM: These are bits of memory for your computer which can be read much faster than from the Hard Drive. When your computer wants to quickly access things, they’re loaded onto your RAM. Basically they work with the processor to make your computer run faster. 1GB is the minimum for desktop computers nowadays. Hard Drive: Your storage space. If you like downloading movies and TV episodes, you’re going to need a lot of it. 100GB is a nice size for such activities, but some people may need more or less. A decent movie is at least 0.7 GB, so if you’re going to have a lot of movies, beef up. Processor: The processor does math. A lot of math. So much math it makes Engineering Physicists look like Humanities majors. The processor is the “mind” of your computer, making everything go. Processors usually don’t even come into question when buying a computer, so you don’t have to worry about them most of the time. But if there is a case where a salesperson is trying to get you to upgrade to a revolutionary new breakthrough in processor technology, don’t do it. The thing with processors is that whenever a new technology is introduced, it takes a while for programs to adopt the new technologies, so initially there really won’t be any difference for the average user. The processor’s speed (GHz) is something to keep in mind, though. Fortunately, major stores won’t stock computers with processors too slow to handle what’s out there now, so again, you won’t really have to worry. Sound Card/Video Card: Don’t bother dropping much money on these things. Unless you’re planning on gaming or doing some seriously demanding stuff, take a clue from the ING Direct man: Save Your Money. Fifty dollars would buy the average user a nice sound or video card. Expansion Slots/Ports: Little slots inside most computers which allow for adding or upgrading hardware such as sound/video cards or modems. There should be at least three free slots (once video and sound cards have been factored in). Case/Tower: The main piece of desktop computers. Sometimes, the flashier the case, the less air–efficient it is, making your computer slower. Therefore, beware of cases with plexiglass siding, black lit interior, and side–mounted 12–mm “Thunder” security guns; they just might not be worth it. (Besides, who the heck goes into people’s homes and laughs at their generic computer cases?) Technogrammatical: Not a real word.
In The End It actually does matter (sorry Linkin Park). A computer, no matter the calibre, will always be an investment, and should be treated as such. My parting words to you will be: take your time, do your research, get honest opinions from knowledgeable friends, and whatever you do, don’t buy from MDG. <ARTICLE:END>
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Andrea Simon District School Board explicitly integrates the study of diverse traditions into its social science curriculum. Other school boards, such as Peel, have similar programs. World traditions are taught with the aim of introducing children to the diversity of contemporary Canadian society. I hope that all children have teachers as committed to delivering this education as is Mrs. Topper. In addition to integrating aspects of world cultures, schools have also sought to increase awareness of the traditions of Canada’s indigenous peoples. Formerly, Native Studies were almost entirely absent from school curriculum—so much so that despite my husband’s ancestral ties to First Nations peoples, he knows very little about his cultural heritage. During my conversation with Mrs. Topper, it was evident that at least some changes had occurred in respect to awareness of native culture. Native Studies have been introduced into many aspects of the school curriculum over the past couple of decades. And although more needs to be done to incorporate Native Canadian history into our school systems, I take some comfort knowing that my children will be able to learn their great–grandfathers’ history and to be proud of their diverse cultural heritage. Though I applaud this emphasis on learning about Native cultures and the religious traditions of newer Canadians, I am more ambivalent about the subsequent de–emphasis of the holidays celebrated by Canada’s European founders. What distinguishes Mrs. Topper from some other teachers is her open inclusion of these Euro–Canadian traditions in her multicultural lessons. She recognizes the value of teaching about many religions, but argues that it is of equal importance to celebrate and study traditions, such as Halloween and Christmas, that have a place in Canada’s historical cultural identity. A friend of mine is a teacher at a public school in Peel district and admits that traditional Euro–Canadian celebrations can be an uncomfortable time in her multicultural classroom. For example, this Halloween she was confronted by a grade four student who would not participate in any activity that celebrated Halloween. The student believed that Halloween was Pagan as it was stereotyped as “devil worshipping” in his country of origin. Halloween is a part of Canadian culture and should not be suppressed solely because of its potential to stir controversy in the classroom. While I believe that the child had the right to decline the invitation to make Halloween decorations, we cannot allow the prejudices from other countries to inform our educational practices here in Canada. By choosing not to expose children to Euro–Canadian traditions, aren’t we just adding to the ignorance that creates harmful stereotypes? Isn’t this something that
a multicultural society should try to address? In the end, the child had nothing to worry about because the school had already decided that harvesting activities would replace Halloween festivities. This extreme cultural sensitivity on the part of the school came at the expense of a long–standing Canadian tradition of celebrating Halloween in the classroom. A true multicultural society must not only celebrate the traditions of newer Canadians, but also openly celebrate and accept Canada’s older cultural traditions. Soon the “holiday season” will be upon us and despite the fact that Christmas is very much a part of Canadian culture, many schools will choose to ignore the holiday entirely to avoid angry parents who do not want their children participating in what they see as Christian activities. I am not a Christian nor am I a native–born Canadian, yet I embrace Christmas, which in my home is about Santa and toys, not religion. The Christmas holiday in the 21st century can mean a lot of things for different people—religion is only one of them. In the public sphere and in homes such as mine, Christmas is a secular celebration of family—and at times consumerism. The typical stance of schools against Christmas is, however, only superficial. Replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” does not change the fact that Christmas is a national holiday. Christmas is an integral part of Canadian culture that should be celebrated openly by those who choose to do so, rather than be hampered by school boards in search of a multiethnic façade. As we incorporate more traditions and celebrations into the Canadian school systems we need to be sure we are not doing so at the expense of Euro–Canadian traditions. We should not shy away from saying Merry Christmas. Canada has a long way to go before it is free of cultural stereotypes and racism. The incorporation of multicultural teaching into Canadian education systems is our best hope of achieving this freedom. But in creating multiethnic curricula we need to ensure that all traditions, including Euro–Canadian ones, are maintained throughout the process. It is this blend of old and new Canadian traditions that will foster a more open and accepting society for our children’s futures.
G RAPHIC BY ERIN G IROUX
anada is often described as a multicultural mosaic, but how far has this ethic become integrated into our schools? This question is of particular concern to me as a mother hoping to raise children to be open and accepting of the many cultural traditions present in Canada. After speaking to teachers and parents from the Hamilton–Wentworth and Peel District School Boards, it became clear that our public schools have incorporated multiculturalism into many aspects of the learning environment. While I was thrilled by the variety of traditions that were being celebrated at Hamilton and Peel schools, I was disappointed by the lack of recognition of more traditional Euro–Canadian celebrations. Regardless of one’s religion, Canada’s civic holidays and commercial society are still structured around significant Christian and Pagan events such as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. I am concerned that our enthusiasm for incorporating other traditions is neglecting an aspect of our national heritage that remains important to a significant portion of the population. For many Canadians, such as myself, these holidays are celebrated because of their historical and cultural significance rather than their religious message. Where then do Euro–Canadian traditions fit into the larger multicultural environment? As a student of anthropology I feel it is one of my principal duties to advocate cultural acceptance, especially to future generations. In my four years studying anthropology at McMaster University I have explored many different cultures, and I have strived to share an appreciation of diversity with my family. I have also learned that despite Canada’s image as a country that embraces multiculturalism, racism and cultural ignorance still run rampant. So what can be done to ensure that our children are not blinded by ignorance, but instead develop into open and accepting individuals? In my opinion, awareness of all cultures—including Euro–Canadian ones—needs to be taught early on. Locally at least, I have witnessed a commendable commitment to acknowledging celebrations of different faiths and cultures. It was just before Christmas when my daughter, who was then in Grade Two, brought home a holiday craft she had made at school. She was so excited about her creation that she could not wait to hang her handiwork on the tree. The ornament was not, however, a typical Christmas decoration. Instead she had produced a Hand of Fatima—a golden hand–shaped charm that hangs from a chain and is often worn by Muslim children. I was pleasantly surprised that the children were given the choice of what holiday symbol to create, and were given an opportunity to learn the cultural significance of the symbol that they chose. The Hand of Fatima particularly interested the class that year—many students chose this symbol to take home as a holiday ornament. My daughter’s experience with multicultural education was a positive one, but I wonder how this compares to that of other Canadian children. While the Ontario Ministry of Education endorses the principle of multiculturalism as a critical aspect of education, our children are heavily influenced by the decisions made by individual boards, schools, and teachers. Recently I met with my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Topper, to discuss how multiculturalism is addressed within her classroom. I was told that the Grade Two curriculum of the Hamilton–Wentworth
G RAPHIC BY A NDREW M OK
WITH ROB LEDERER
uring spring exams, with summer vacation in sight, focusing on work is like entering the foreign film aisle at Blockbuster: you know you should do it, but it takes Link–like courage to tackle text that’s more–often–than–not incomprehensible—be it subtitles or disordered notes. Minds that should be calculating pi to the fifteenth decimal place become stuffed with sun–filled fantasies of strolls along the beach and afternoons spent sipping margaritas while watching pool boy Stephanio hard at work (when you don’t have to be). This past summer did not live up to these high hopes. Despite various attempts to secure an entertaining job, if only in the love–it–even– though–it–makes–my–retinas–burn–and–heart– seethe It Takes Two kind of way, my summer suffered Len’s greatest fear: something stole my sunshine. I ended up spending many days and nights cooped up in an ice cream parlour, scooping over–priced dairy for just over the minimum wage. My summer girls (all but one of my co– workers were women) did not wear Abercrombie and Fitch but were forced to dawn blue candy–striper aprons, much to their displeasure. One of the few perks of this position was the parlour’s clientele; the patrons were almost exclusively an upper–class crowd with a few celebrities thrown in for good measure. I’ve often imagined what I would say were I to meet a celebrity. Would I try to impress or befriend him or act all angsty and laugh in her face? When I heard that Ashlee Simpson had come through the parlour’s doors, I wished I had been there to mock her by asking what kind of C–O C–O C–O C–O–N–E she preferred. When I actually came face–to–face with Don Cheadle, all I could do was speak in a gossipy whisper to my co–scoopers. My clashes with the celebrity world, though few and far between, were reminiscent of the exhilaration, I imagine, caused by uttering “KISS 92 plays today’s hit music, now give me my money” to Tarzan Dan’s congratulations. It’s sort of
the same as initially getting to know your high school friends’ university pals through Facebook photos; you imagine that you know them, you have likely seen them at their worst, and can even evaluate whether or not you’d get along. I, likewise, firmly believe that I could be close with Amanda Bynes, if only she had stopped by for a scoop or two last summer. The celebrity world is almost completely separate from our own. Unless your dad runs a small for–rent island in Turks and Caicos, you own a downtown L.A. Kabbalah institute, or Paris Hilton’s dog fell in (puppy) love with your pet during a chance encounter at the neighbourhood park and she’s insisted that they continue dating—the idea of which causes you to roll your eyes and gag, but only behind her back, because let’s be honest, the girl’s got power—it’s unlikely that you’ve had many real life run–ins with celebrities. So, when you spot Kirsten Dunst at a concert, Natalie Portman leaving your favourite bookstore, or Don Cheadle snacking on ice cream from the shop you work at, it’s no wonder that your first instinct isn’t to add them to Gawker Stalker. Meeting a celebrity is almost an extraterrestrial encounter because it seems like they literally exist in a different universe, one that StarTV allows us to peer into. MySpace and YouTube blur this distinction, making the concept of celebrity even more postmodern than Wikipedia’s entry about “Wikipedia”. These websites allow pretty much anyone with an Internet cable to try their hand at mass notoriety. And make no mistake; it’s absolutely possible to translate popularity on the web into a real world success story. Lily Allen released her first pop single last spring, after slowly gaining recognition from tracks on her MySpace page. “Smile”, the first song off of her debut album, hit number one on the U.K. music charts last summer. While she has yet to have major commercial success in America, one of Allen’s songs was featured on a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Certainly a Pitchfork superstar, if not a full–blown indie success, Lily Allen’s story is
I n t e r n e t
not completely uncommon. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah also walked the ever–more–commonly trodden road of recording and releasing their own albums without help from a record label. Relying on more avant–garde music bloggers to spread the word, rather than executives out for an immediate profit, likely helped their off–kilter, beyond–unconventional sound take off. While neither Lily Allen nor CYHSY are likely to be interviewed on tomorrow’s episode of Entertainment Tonight, their fame is international and substantial in its own right. YouTube celebrities enjoy a different, almost–undoubtedly brief breed of success. With an interesting or outrageous premise, anyone can produce a video, post it online for the world to view, and see what happens. You never know— you could be the next guest on Regis and Kelly. From Lonelygirl15, a YouTube series that recently served as the basis of an episode of Law and Order: CI, to the “Numa Numa” kid, literally anyone can enjoy 15 minutes of fame with only 15 minutes of effort. Yet, in a short time, you’re almost certain to be forgotten. Will anyone really remember the name of the “Mentos and Diet Coke Guys” in five days? (Does anyone even know their true identity?) One–hit YouTube celebrities do not suffer from their success in the same way as mass stars: Vanilla Ice will always be remembered for “Ice Ice Baby”, but the face of “Ask a Ninja” will likely never be recognized on the street. Like the idea of loosening up someone’s buttons, when you stop and think about it, the concept of celebrity is pretty troubling. YouTube and MySpace further smudge the border between the worlds of stars and regular people. They provide a springboard for more legitimized, yet still independent success, and allow anyone with a few hours on their hands and a penchant for the absurd to reach semi–celebrity status. Maybe that’ll be my goal this holiday—become an Internet celebrity. It sounds more entertaining than scooping ice cream all day and night.
I d o l incite 23
In the city The tiled stairs in the subway station sag under the heavy hope of so many feet. Come with me baby, And we’ll make our mark on the skin of this aging city. Three men sang to me, bouncing ancient harmonies off briefcases and an outstretched New York Mets hat. I added my crumpled bill to the fat one’s solemn solo as we hurtled across town. When you spoke to me after midnight under a shivering tree ancient words made ancient sense. The streets are silver tonight, Slick with composure and noble loneliness, with dirty gum and a glossy pile of puke. The city, she won’t let on That the chanting madmen and platform blues band Break her heart every night. There’s construction downtown. I lost you in the detour. And she’s laughing a little, this aching hag. I can hear it in crumbling cement, the screeching breaks, the sizzling meat under snapping yellow tarps. These days when it’s late, I wonder if sinking tiles and silver trains And words pushed out into the air Can leave this place. I see them floating along boney tracks, Expanding from her sobbing heart, heading somewhere better.
G RAPHICS BY A NNE VAN KOEVERDEN AND K ERRY SCOTT