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Inspiration for an Enlightened Generation


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08 page 10 page 12 page 14 page 19 page 22 page 25 page 30 page 32 page 37 page 38 page 40 page 43 page 45 page 49 page 51 page 55 page 56 page 58 page 62 page

Editor’s Note Friend, Follow and Become a Fan The E-Smoking Revolution A Verbal Venn Diagram: Student Life and “The Real World” A Critique of Our Cultural Conception of Happiness Interview - I Heart New York A Presidential Olive Branch In Defense of Internet’s Awfulness An Argument for Moral Relativism Tracing the Student Movement I’m Too Sexy for my Second Life The Big Twit Diesel Certainly Not With That Attitude A Thought Experiment Our New Intuitions Culturally Out but in the Political Closet Making the Case for Creativity in Hollywood? The Quagmire of Canadian Politics Help, I’m Telling Strangers My Secrets Paralyzed with Opportunity

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Masthead Konekt Magazine Issue 1 Fall 2009


Jeffrey Howard

Neil Martin

Editor in Chief

Art Director

Matthew Lombardi

Senior Editor Contributing Editor

Jennifer K Mann

Sean O'Loghlen Jeff Fraser

Contributing Writers:

Joanna Adams, Jameson Berkow, Gareth Chantler, Jason Collins, Samantha Evans, Jeff Fraser, David Hertzberg, Kate Kilgour, Raissa Killoran, Matthew Lombardi, Gillian Magnusson, Sean O'Loghlen, Celine Song, Justin Steinburg, Jeff Waite, Michael Woods, Melyssa Wright Advertising Sales Director Advertising Design Director Production Artist Chief Web Architect Web Graphic Designer Pre-Press Services Printing

Published by OmniCentra Media Inc. P.O. Box 1153, Kingston, ON K7L 4Y5 t. 613.539.7648 e.

Jeffrey Howard Neil Martin Jennifer K Mann Rares Crisan Justin Fowler GMStudios Inc. Dollco Printing Ltd.


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Editor’s Note Thanks for picking up the inaugural issue of Konekt StudentMagazine In your hands is the biggest student publication ever launched in Kingston, and, with your help, one that has limitless potential for growth. Robert Frost famously wrote, "two roads diverged in a wood". Konekt magazine took neither path. Instead, we’ve blazed a trail that we hope, within these pages, has something for everyone. From politics to culture and society to technology, the articles contained in these pages are some of the most exciting, insightful, and inspirational ideas and opinions our peers have to offer. But beyond a traditional magazine, the physical object that you’re holding is just one small piece of the electrifying concept that is Konekt. Our manifesto is evident in our slogan, Inspiration for an Enlightened Generation. We want to connect students with exciting ideas for the future, new technologies, pioneering research, creative projects, and intrepid thinking. Bearing that goal in mind, Konekt is being launched in conjunction with a brand new online portal, fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter, where we encourage you to engage with the ideas that you’ve read here. Found something controversial? Good! Get onto our web portal, and engage in a dialogue on the topic. Post some innovative and inspiring content of your own that you think will spark others’ attention. Ideas are a powerful force, and the social media platform we’ve launched for you to be able to engage with them is the first of its kind. This ain’t your parents’ traditional bathroom reading material. But in order to become the quasi pseudo sort of hybrid between Vanity Fair and that serves as our rough guideline, we need your help.

We need you to get online, and get engaged. Many people can talk the talk and wax poetic about change, innovation, and not being afraid to try new things. But this magazine is the epitome of moving beyond the rhetoric. Konekt not only contains groundbreaking ideas written by our peers, but its very existence is itself proof that we aren't afraid to walk the walk of originality and inventiveness. The founding of this magazine is a microcosm of the dynamic attitudes we seek to inspire. And for that, I want to take this opportunity to thank Neil Martin and Jeffrey Howard, the founders and owners of Konekt Student Magazine. Neil and Jeff are recent Queen’s graduates who, with a little money and a lot of creativity and passion, decided to blaze their own trail in creating this entire concept from scratch. When I first heard about the idea behind Konekt, I knew I had stumbled upon something special, and I cannot thank these guys enough for bringing me on board as Editor. I’ve been surrounded by a great many smart, creative, talented people in my time at Queen’s, and I can say with complete conviction that this magazine represents the boldest creative and entrepreneurial foray that I have witnessed in just over three years at university. Neil and Jeff truly embody the spirit of an old Latin proverb that is a favourite of mine, fortis fortuna adiuvat. It means, fortune favours the bold. I also want to use this space to thank my incredible team of writers. I came to each of you with an idea that could have been laughed off as ridiculous, and each of you not only rose to the occasion, but you’ve helped to mold this magazine in its infant stages. I am privileged to have worked with each and every one of you. Thank you. If you’re interested in writing for the next issue of Konekt, drop me a line at One love, Matthew Lombardi Editor in Chief

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science & technology topic

Friend, Follow and Become a Fan Kate Kilgour

Video killed the radio star. The iPod killed the Discman. And for our rising generation of professionals, social media has killed traditional PR and advertising. Biz Stone, Jay Adelson and Mark Zuckerberg are the stars in the real-life fairytale of how a garage startup is spun to golden tech-domination. In my home of Palo Alto, California – a town that hears ‘apple’ and thinks ‘Dr. Steve Jobs’ – the buzz in Peet’s Coffee revolves around Stanford graduates and the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road. Amongst this hum is the rising murmur of a whole new profession that makes college kids’ pastime a paid position – social media specialist. Professional tweeter. A chronic Facebook ‘friender’. And this recent wave of interaction could not have swooped the www at a better time. The state of California is doling out IOUs, urban sprawl has been stopped in its tracks and the rate of unemployment is rising. The economy needs a month of Black Fridays and a saving grace to put the middle class back in their Range Rovers and pre-packaged homes. Enter: the Twitterati. Small firms, in particular, have been able to reach their customers and create a larger following without dropping serious coin on an ad agency or a public relations firm. Biz is the new PR guru. By fully utilizing Twitter, hype circulates. Laura Holson of The New York Times aptly compared this type of promotion to 1990’s hip-hop street teams – the posters of Snoop Dog are now twitpics of Kanye. Jason Sadler of Jacksonville, Fla. has tapped into the market in a highly cost-effective manner. His marketing firm, iwearyourshirt, charges by the calendar day for 24 hours of promotion. For example, if I wanted to hire him for February 14 to endorse my Valentine Gigolos endeavor, I would pay $45 for a day of Jason tweeting and broadcasting on For a website that averages 1,500 daily hits (which is not incredibly impressive), it’s a viable solution to budget cuts and advertising conundrums. In coordination with his tweets, my theoretical online presence, and perhaps a contest-of-the-day, my $45 bucks is a bargain. His yearly intake: about $68,000 for wearing a t-shirt and blabbing about a different company every day. The role of ‘online media whiz’ is truly the dream position for Generation Y’s. We are constantly tuned in – clutching our crackberry baby; cradling its blessed alerts. We sleep in, occasionally go to lectures, and generally spend a lot of time stalking classmates and following the love lives of Lindsay Lohan and Lauren Conrad. And it’s not to be scoffed at – even the White House has a Twitter page (with 640,000 followers). To get paid for tracking competitors, researching firms in your channel and keeping clients up-to-date on company happenings is not far from regular life as a starving student (except for the content. And the salary).

Murphy-Goode winery in Sonoma County, CA recently posted an ad for a wine enthusiast and “lifestyle correspondent”. Job requirements include living at the vineyard, blogging about their Malbecs and Chardonnays, and accepting $10,000 per month. Instead of sending your jewelry designs to Teen Vogue in the hopes they’ll grace the pages, packages are mailed to fashion bloggers. The ripple effect is in motion: Jane of Sea of Shoes wears your necklace and links your Etsy page. Blog followers mention your line in a tweet. Sales rise. And you, the up and coming accessory designer, only paid postage. Citizens in war-torn regions and victims of natural disasters are parlaying first-hand, un-filtered accounts right to the Internet. With the new iTwitter application for iPhone, which uses ‘push technology’, a tweet is made by someone you follow and it appears on your screen instantly. Essentially, I could know within seconds if an assassination across the world occurs. Corporations such as CNN and NYTimes have realized this and fully embraced the land of social media. But writing about the convenience of micro-blogs for personal use is a bit like preaching to the choir. Queen’s students and Konekt readers are most likely avid exploiters of mobile wi-fi and the bursting list of Twitter-associated platforms. The essence of what I am getting at is this: PR and advertising as we know it are gone. The heavy hitters of the corporate world, with hefty spending budgets, are choosing the same routes as the little guy. Starbucks, Ford and Home Depot (alright, maybe the latter two are feeling the downturn of the markets…) are using people, like us, to promote their deals, answer queries and inflate the publicity that cushions their franchises. Starbucks has 250,000 ‘tweeps’ and 3.5 million fans on Facebook, while Ford’s Head of Social Media, @scottmonty, runs a Twitter page with 10, 500 followers. Vanity Fair spreads and 35 second Super Bowl plugs are still the top shelf media liquors, but smashing Ashton Kutcher’s 2.7 million Twitter followers is a decent stab at utilizing free PR platforms. For our generation, we live and breathe online networking. Despite our truest attempts to cancel our accounts during exams and ignore the relationship alerts on our mini feeds, we are pulled back into the world wide vortex. Lucky for us, all of this practice of advertising ourselves through profile pictures and clever status’ is now a valuable asset in this growing web of public relation/social media interconnectedness. Yes, you can now put ‘Facebooking’ on your resume.

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topic science & technology

The E-Smoking Revolution And the governmental resistance Jameson Berkow

The North American tobacco industry is more than two centuries old; the anti-smoking industry has been around for perhaps a quarter of that time. Put in another way, for about fifty of the last two hundred years, nicotine addicts have had two legal options to get their fix. They could smoke tobacco to satisfy a craving for something no more addictive or unhealthy than caffeine (only to receive hefty doses of arsenic, carbon monoxide and dozens of known cancercausing chemicals along with their desired measure of nicotine). The difficulty of choosing door number two: to quit, to give up the comforting habit, the oral fixation, the esoteric bump in social status, to forcibly convince your own body that it no longer needs nicotine to survive can only truly be measured when one is staring down that deep dark tunnel, contemplating a jump. Sure, recent decades have seen various puffers, patches and gums put out on the market to help ease the weaning process, but there was nothing that ever made it anything other than thoroughly unpleasant; as those who have endured it reflect on as an unbearably long time. Generation upon generation has been limited to those two options: get your nicotine from the ultra heavily taxed government-sanctioned tobacco industry or not at all. But today we live in a world of such technological and scientific marvel that 60 years ago would have required the mind of a science-fiction writer or a raving psychotic (perhaps both…) even to imagine, and it has thusly provided us with a new way: an alternative to having to choose between smoking tobacco or not.

What is this new way you might ask? From a technological standpoint it is actually quite simple. But it is the idea; the original thought of creating a device that perfectly emulates the experience of smoking a tobacco cigarette while delivering healthy doses of nicotine to the body without the formaldehyde and arsenic that usually go along with it that makes this new invention

the answer to the prayers of tens of millions of North American smokers. With that dramatic buildup out the way and my product endorsement cheque safely deposited, I will tell you of this new miracle of free market innovation: electronic cigarettes. You read that right; these are electronic devices that from a distance look exactly like a typical smoke: from the red LED light on the end that glows when a user inhales right down to a flavoured water vapor that the user exhales to simulate smoke. The key difference between these ‘e-cigs’ and traditional cigarettes is that the former contains only three ingredients (water, nicotine, propylene glycol and an optional flavoring – all of which have been deemed safe for human consumption in Canada and the U.S.) while the latter has more than 4000 ingredients (42 of which are known carcinogens). I can already hear you asking, ‘where can I pick up one of these brilliant free-market solutions to the health risks of smoking?’ Allow me to save you the trouble of asking by advancing you the answer in a single word: nowhere.

science & technology

Should two million average Canadian smokers decide to switch from regular tobacco to electronic cigarettes, the provincial and federal governments of Canada would stand to lose just over $6.4 billion every year.

United States waited until May to follow suit) after only a few short months of sales (though in that time, e-cig companies enjoyed some very healthy profit margins). The justification for the ban was quite simply the height of hypocrisy: “electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction” (Official Health Canada statement from March 27, 2009).

So what could the government do to avoid losing their lucrative monopoly on nicotine addiction? They are the government after all, so why not simply outlaw the competition and cite some hypocritical public health risks as justification? Sounds like a pretty good plan, which is why they did exactly that.

Those risks sound awful similar to those associated with the far more dangerous tobacco products don’t they? Products that have incidentally been sold legally in Canada since well before this country ever had laws. Clearly there is more to Health Canada’s decision than they are willing to admit; and like most government decisions, the true reason can be found only by following the money.

What the government did not count on, however, was the massive outpouring of expert testimony and public popularity that has subsequently risen up in support of electronic cigarettes. Perhaps the best of these comes from the former chief of staff of the UCLA Medical Center, who bluntly stated in a recent interview that he has “never seen a product, ever, that stands to save as many lives as electronic cigarettes.”

To start, take two basic facts into account. The first is that, unlike traditional stop smoking aids like nicotine-based gum or patches, which are intended for use on a temporary basis, electronic cigarettes are the first product to grant smokers the opportunity to safely continue with their nicotine habit indefinitely. The second and crucial fact to consider is that approximately 70% of the cost of a pack of ordinary cigarettes goes to Federal and Provincial taxes, while electronic cigarettes are only subject to normal sales taxes (which tend to average between 12% and 15% depending on the province).

Indeed, a number of medical experts have determined that electronic cigarettes promised risk of illness and death is well under 1% that of regular tobacco cigarettes. Placing that statement in perspective, choosing to smoke electronic cigarettes every day carries about as much risk to your health as choosing to drink a cup of coffee every morning. Withholding electronic cigarettes from the market is like telling anyone who has legally become addicted to nicotine, that his or her only legal option is to get it from a product responsible for more preventable deaths every year than HIV-AIDS, drugs, fires and car accidents combined.

Some simple arithmetic ought to help explain this theory. According to figures taken from the Non-Smokers Rights Association on current cigarette prices across Canada, the average cost of a carton of cigarettes is about $9.00. Now, assuming that the average smoker goes through about a carton per week (about 1.5 packs per day), that works out to $3,203 in tax revenue that the government would stand to lose for every smoker that decides to switch to the healthier e-alternative to tobacco. Now, if one were to take that number and multiple it by two million (less than half of the estimated total number of smokers in the country), the result is staggering.

There is one vital lesson that the future leaders of this great country of ours must take away from this story, one that they must never forget: just because the government is charged with maintaining your health doesn’t necessarily mean they care about it. The importing, distribution, advertising or selling of electronic cigarette products has been banned in Canada since March (The



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culture & society opic

A Verbal Venn Diagram: Student Life and “The Real World” Jeff Waite

I strode alone, out of the small, outdated and sparsely populated arrival terminal. Past two machine gun-toting guards who seemed too engaged in a conversation I couldn’t comprehend to acknowledge my existence, and into a new and entirely different world. Lil’ Wayne lyrics bumped in my headphones and the once airplane food, then stomach contents of an elderly man, originally released on me somewhere over the Atlantic, taunted my olfactory glands; and, served as a disgusting reminder my attempt at laundry in the Paris airport, now some 12 hours ago, had been feeble, at best. How welcome the warm fresh air was, after filling my lungs for 22 hours with the re-circulated gas associated with life in airplanes and airports. I can’t help but ponder, the substandard oxygen saturation and the regular persons travel anxiety probably combine to shave 10 points off the IQ. Ergo causing the majority of attempts to smuggle nail clippers on board. The disturbing reality of the situation I found myself in hit me like a bus, immediately thereafter. Extreme possibility, complete helplessness, excitement and fear were the ingredients in the anxious cocktail of emotion that blurred my mind and made we want to vomit on myself. It all happens at an astounding rate. You’re smuggling beer in low-density glass bottles from one residence room to another; the next thing you know you wake up from a nap at 2:48pm one idle Tuesday afternoon and the whole world wants to know what your “life-plan” is. As the deadline of graduation looms and the “what are you going to do next year?” question lurks unanswered, anesthetic-free oral surgery begins to sound appealing compared to gatherings with extended family members, curious to know what course you are going to plot in what will surely be a misguided attempt to navigate the uncharted seas of the real world. Smiling, nodding and optimism get you through most of such said encounters but the cold facts remain. It is time for the next step When I landed in the country I now call home- Slovakia, in case you were wondering- the sum of any knowledge about my surroundings entailed little more than that gleamed by a brief perusal of a Wikipedia article and 5 minutes of the masterful screenplay Eurotrip. Rewind two months, I was trolling Kingston’s student ghetto streets emanating an aura of proud jubilance mixed .

with carelessness that is associated only with the completion of an undergraduate degree. My smile was propped bigger by an unusually light exam schedule that was about to allow me an extra week of binge drinking, compared to most of my peers. This was an opportunity that would not be wasted but where new heights of wasted would be attained, if I may be so bold. My positive outlook was not to be extinguished by the wettest of blankets or the melodramatic nostalgia of girls facing uncertain times. I took to escaping sobriety like it was a prison at which I had just served a tenuous sentence. Each day I celebrated with new friends who had like me, freed themselves from the torturous shackles of academic rigour. It was a three week long godfather of all benders. I have never felt such swagger as I did my final fortnight in a town where I had had the best four years to date. Things were easy and times were good, to say the absolute least. I even managed to persevere through the frustration associated with graduating during the worst bear market the global economy has seen in 70 years. I secured employment in Bratislava. Never have I felt so free of responsibility and stress. In an apparent cruel twist, I now find myself being forced to come to grips with a world that is itself still coming to grips with life in a post-communist society. It is entirely different from anything I could have previously imagined, let alone been granted the opportunity to explore. I am perpetually perplexed; often times left shaking my head at the lack of innovation and motivation I have become disturbingly inured to. The pace of life is a case study in “Cause and Effect.” I’ve observed that indeed, people move slower when there is no incentive. I’m told things are improving though; as a matter of fact, I’m impressed fairly frequently. For instance the ubiquity and accessibility of alcohol and zmrzlina (ice-cream) is mind-blowing. It’s interesting to note that further research has revealed the extreme prevalence of the two consumables just mentioned is also a direct result of communism. The most obvious lessons are often the ones that surprise me most. Perhaps because the shock that accompanies them is always quickly followed by a feeling of obtuseness; that you should have realized the apparent conclusion much earlier: People are a product of their circumstances. A less obvious corollary, and the fact that explains why single-serve shots of gin

culture & society

are served at the gas station, is that things are related in complex and intricate ways that might not initially make sense to us. As the remaining few folks in the arrival terminal behind me trickled out onto the street and then on into cabs or the arms of waiting loved ones, I agonizingly surveyed the bleak landscape naively wishing I would in some way recognize something in a place I had never been. After processing my immediate surroundings, the conclusions reached by my cerebral cortex triggered a hormonal surge that splashed a few more shots of “overwhelming helplessness” into the “Zeus-Juice” of feelings still mingling with the contents of my stomach. I perched on my suitcase, waiting for the ride I had been promised. I tried in vain to be positive. I thought about getting puked on by that airsick old man, how hung-over and tired I was, and that I had no idea what to expect in the coming hours, days and weeks. I changed the playlist and reminisced of summers spent working at camp. And dwelled on the way things used to be, how easy and fun those times were. I thought about what my friends were doing without me. I came to the stark conclusion that I really should have asked for some contact info for my to-be employer, before boarding in Montreal. After 30 minutes of spastic yearning and a simultaneous but more focused effort to fend off a crescendo of thoughts, revolving around human trafficking in post USSR countries, I made the executive decision to relocate inside the terminal. It was a meager attempt to distract myself from the situation I occupied. No one spoke English or French and had it not been for e-mail contact with my parents via an iPod Touch and a shaky internet connection I might have gone bona fide psycho. Being completely alone in an airport in Eastern Europe with no real plan of action, or means to develop one, gives you a lot of time to think. When you neglected to do any research about the place, you watch, as daydreams become vivid hallucinations. Almost more haunting, were thoughts about how studying for 12 hours a day so that you can confidently fill in a very tricky pattern of bubbles on a thinner than normal sheet of paper, suddenly seemed like an appallingly enormous waste of time.



Despite academic challenge and the substance abuse fueling my combustive partying, I was becoming bored at school. I was comfortable in my surroundings. I had great friends and a clear agenda. It was a nice routine, and one that took me some considerable investment to establish. In a way, I was proud of what I had going for myself. It wasn’t always that easy. And yet, I cannot help but feel that complacency is the dangerous offspring of comfort. I’ve tried hard to convince myself to fear smugness in the pursuit of productivity and success, it works about 30% of the time. The funny thing I’ve learned about learning curves is the positiveinteger proportionality constant that correlates the slope of the curves approach to zero with the approach of me to boredom (when the curve gets flat, I get bored; for you non-math types). After four years at school, I frequently felt encapsulated and insulated from everything outside the fifteen minute walking radius whose confines I could be found within, 90% of the time during the 48 months immediately prior. In that world of fake-deadlines, roommates, multiple choice tests, essays, lab reports and baby steps I had contrasted engrained values with new ideas, observed patterns and asked questions, behaved unbelievably irresponsibly and worked harder than I had previously known possible, all in an experiment. The hypothesis of which was murky then but has made itself evident now: to learn as much about myself as possible given the resources available. I took it as a challenge to make the most of the array of options student life offers. I volunteered and worked part time while trying my hardest to meet new people and enjoy fresh perspectives. School was important, but so were other things. My taste in music expanded, as did my repertoire of experiences and opportunities. I tried hard not to take anything too seriously but it all contributed to who I was becoming. When I did finally tell my peers about my plans for the future they often replied with phrases like “Oh… You would do that!” or “I wouldn’t expect that from anyone else.” I cannot accurately decipher if these exclamations were good, bad or could have served as some type of warning. I can theorize with some confidence however, that it means I made a choice congruent with what people perceived me to be. Any insight beyond that is speculative at best. Besides, I think that conclusion makes me sound legit.


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culture & society opic

I’m glad that prior to my solo foray into a locale held until relatively recently in the grips of the Soviet Union, I didn’t try hard to postulate what life would be like. My thesis, in brief, that has and will continue to serve as catalyst for my musings: All people are different, but they are still people, just shaped by their surroundings and experiences. I fear if I had tried to pin preconceived ideas to a place on a map, my experience would have been diminished by unrealistic hopes. No matter how many combinations of buzzwords I worked into a Google search I don’t think I could have accurately imagined such a peculiar place existing. Once school finished I spent a few weeks in Kingston packing up what had been my life and then spent a very short stint at home. For reasons that were then unbeknownst to me, I did not feel it of priority to invest much thought into what I was about to do. Instead I found myself waking up with carpenters hammering in my head after nights spent with high school friends and finding immense pleasure in a kitchen brimming with all types of foods. Maybe I was living in the moment, or something like that. When I first arrived here, there were days that seemed to linger on forever, allowing me eternities to ponder and regret my choice to step out of the mould. And yet in retrospect, the 7 weeks have flown by and I expect the pace only to continue its unabated acceleration. As I have become more able and autonomous my situation has drastically improved. I am still humbled though, and now empathize with the illiterate. As I resort to buying groceries based on pictures, 9 times out of 10 expectations make transition more difficult and by their nature more disappointing. Go with the flow as much as you can, if you have an IQ above 84, it’s relatively effective. The size of the airport was comparable to your local Blockbuster Video. Any signs of urbanization however were a horizon away. It amazes me how suspicious I quickly became of everyone. I promptly developed a prey complex rivaled only by a young, motherless gazelle subject to the appetite of the next large feline, bound to stroll by. Or maybe a pack of metaphorical hyenas would be the ones to eat me alive. I usually consider myself an optimist and yet casual glances in my direction were translated to be intimidating and cutting glares. Home felt like forever ago in a galaxy that no longer existed. I tried making contingency plans and reassuring myself. Truth be told, I have never felt so incapable. It wasn’t long before I was pacing the small reception area of the Bratislava airport waiting for something to happen to me. Hours passed. I questioned my decision again and again. Why hadn’t I just moved to Toronto? The glares of taxi drivers and skinheads got more menacing. It is an extremely disarming and humbling experience to be so reliant on others. I think there is a lot to be said for people who try to help themselves. When my future colleagues did eventually show up I was elated to hear words in a language I understood. Turns out they had just gone to the wrong airport. I haven’t been people-trafficked yet. Almost two months after my less than smooth arrival, the bedroom and inside of the fridge still don’t feel quite like home but the blinding agony of the morning-after headache is the same, independent of your latitude or longitude. When faced with such paralyzing after effects as I experience this morning I always have, and still do, find comfort in the accomplishment of menial but necessary tasks: ironing, laundry and cooking. Passing the Hoover

will have to wait until the bold dose of ibuprofen I just launched down my throat is absorbed into my bloodstream. At the end of the day, or more accurately, the beginning of the next morning, not all that much changes. We create our own realities and while they might vary depending on the few circumstances beyond our control we do our best to tailor and tame our surroundings to best fit our needs. Just as at school: I’m still tempted to have another cup of coffee to alter my neural synapses in an effort to oil my cognitive machine into action. Just as at school, I know it will amount only to a meager attempt to better articulate my cumulus thoughts. My binge problem remains ever present as I continue to maintain only the most vague memories of my exploits and escapades in the previous 18 hours; shrouded in a blackness with which I have become far too familiar. I woke up with my shoes on and 3 Euro in small change all over my bed. The desire to move from a horizontal position is negligible. When the chips are down, so to speak, you only have yourself to count on and I’m still the same hung-over piece of shit. I vividly remember one of my last days at Douglas Library. Instead of trying to learn, I caught myself holding an over-sized cup of coffee and daydreaming about life after school; particularly about how the future might not force me to learn so actively. Not the case. Throughout the last few weeks I have been challenged on an exhaustingly consistent basis in ways I didn’t previously know possible. I have spent copious amounts of time convincing myself that my short-term discomfort will be good for me down the road. It builds character, or some shit. While this whole dissertation might be a futile attempt at finding solace in a somewhat rash and poorly planned decision, I have started to believe it all. And will therefore preach it from the 8th story balcony of my communist built tower block housing unit for all to hear. In my so far prompt expedition from a comfortably monotonous life as an undergraduate I have seen enough to believe “The Real World” or at least the mutilated version of it that I’m entertaining, has some subtle differences from academia. The two don’t remain completely separate, however. The degree to which my learning has continued is evidence enough for now. While the resources available to me are quite different than those that come with the supporting environment found in whatever university town you’ve chosen, I am confident that the journey of self-discovery will continue. As I stumble and meander down whatever path feels right in my attempt to accomplish my goals and acknowledge people as people, I will continue to look for translatable and relevant musings: Learn yourself better by learning about others. Global citizenry is an interesting ideal. Objectively analyze things you observe. Think about the way you think. Learn to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. The harder it is now, the better it will be later. Success is a mindset. Fun is important. I still feel a bit like a baby bird, teetering on the side of a nest on the highest branch of a towering tree about to test my wings for the first time. However cliché that analogy is, it still resonates as true. The foreboding yet inspiring sense of uncertainty that lay ahead and the view from my balcony is eerily reminiscent of an idle September Sunday afternoon five years ago that still feels like yesterday. I stared out my residence room looking at Lake Ontario picturing the throngs of upset mothers in the passenger seats of mini-vans and SUVS on the 401 and the anxious, exciting notion that I was about to start a whole new way of life in which anything could be accomplished. I think I’m ready to try vacuuming.

A critique of our cultural conception of happiness When it comes to happiness, our instincts are more precious than our rationality David Hertzberg "Whence come the highest mountains? I once asked. Then I learned that they came out of the sea. The evidence is written in their rocks and in the walls of their peaks. It is out of the deepest depth that the highest must come to its height." --Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Speaking with an old friend – a genuinely brilliant pre-med student – about our ambitions, he cautiously expressed a desire to pursue a life in research instead of becoming a doctor, which had always been his plan. He described how dull he would feel deep inside if the highlight of his day was “diagnosing someone with psoriasis.” Fascinated by his revealing and somewhat unexpected expression of heart, I watched as his face then hardened and he said he “may become a doctor” after all. Most jobs in research pay peanuts compared to what you get in medicine, he explained, and there is no guarantee he wouldn’t toil away in obscurity at the bottom of the totem pole if he doesn’t come up with a significant discovery early in his career, (as this is apparently the key to advancement in the scientific-research community). “Of course,” he continued, “the ideal is to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine, but we both know that’s not going to happen. So then what?” His father, a doctor, probably wouldn’t approve. Finally, he added with a sly grin, being a doctor pretty much is a pick-up line in and of itself. I sympathize with his dilemma, and by no means propose that there is a universal answer: he could, after all, step into a position of MD and be pretty much guaranteed the “good life”. And, given that he enjoys the study of medicine, surely he could find a niche as a doctor which more or less suited his tastes, even if it’s not technically living the “dream” for him. Would he be crazy to throw that opportunity away for such an unknown? I offered that maybe if he aimed to win the Nobel Prize and missed his goal, he could still carve out a meaningful life for himself along the way. “Ah,” he said, “you mean like that old saying from elementary school, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll still land among the stars’?” Exactly. “You know, David, there’s research suggesting that people who don’t overreach like that are actually happier than those who do – that it’s better to live for today.” Hmm. I didn’t bother mentioning to him that studies also indicate doctors, along with lawyers, are statistically some of the unhappiest professionals on the planet – because this is, incidentally, completely besides the point here. I realized that he had indeed cut through the fat to hit the crux of this dilemma. It’s not about which choice is better, (neither is “better”!). And it’s not even a matter of careers in general. Rather, it’s a fundamental question of how you choose to move around in the world – how you want to live your life. Whether we like it or not, we are all faced with these fundamental questions, especially when we are young and deciding on our identity and values. And, in a sense, he has a point: I actually don’t doubt the veracity of a study suggesting that on average people who live with more localized desires are more content (and sane) than those who don’t. That is perfectly reasonably to me. The question I wish to pose here is whether the “happiness” assumed in this approach is really something worth pursuing in the first place. Shouldn’t we aim – higher?

The Socratic Conception of Happiness: Contentment The idea my friend presents through the study is nothing new. The underlying conception of happiness continues an ancient and enduring line of rational moral thought in both the East and West. Socrates, the Godfather of Western philosophy, begins his argument with the premise that pain results primarily from unsatisfied desires. He argues it therefore follows we should adapt our desires to the means available for satisfying them, because happiness consists in satisfaction, not maximization. Those who lack nothing are happy. We shouldn’t pursue the expansive pleasures that entail suffering, stress, and anxiety – especially since quite often the suffering will be in vain. With the basic Socratic equation of reason = virtue = happiness, the idea is to align yourself with rationality in order to evaluate and reign-in the domain of our passions. The ideal “happy” state is one with neither intense pain nor intense pleasure. The “good life”, then, is a matter of stability and comfort – or, “peace”. The happiest individuals are those who have contentment – which, more than anything, means they have worked to eliminate suffering from their lives. This basic idea, happiness as contentment as elimination of suffering, lies more or less at the heart of many modes of Western thought, such as stoicism, Epicureanism, Judeo/Christian morality, hedonism (most versions), and our most treasured modern idea that underpins egalitarianism and democracy: utilitarianism. In the East, the same idea was promulgated through Buddhism, which teaches that desire causes psychic unrest and so the path to “enlightenment” and true happiness is to learn to let go of all wants and desires. Nietzsche and the Aristocracy of Suffering: Passionate Joy The opposing view, of course, is that we shouldn’t aim for contentment, but for passionate joy – in spite of the risk and suffering that inevitably ensues with this approach. Enter Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher, who pulls no punches expressing just what he thinks of the Socratic conception of happiness: “Wellbeing as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end! A state which soon renders man ludicrous and contemptible – which makes it desirable that he should perish! ... Our pity is more elevated, more farsighted pity – we see how man is diminishing himself, how you are diminishing him!” The truly noble instincts, Nietzsche stresses, are inherently expansive. In spiritually strong individuals, only the overpowering of the greatest resistance brings joy. Yet starting with Socrates and the birth of metaphysics, happiness was no longer a consequence of the victory over resistance; rather, it resided in abrogating the most powerful instincts of life. “To be obliged to fight the instincts – this is the formula of degeneration: as long as life is in the ascending line, happiness and instinct are one.” All at once the individual “began to take himself too seriously,” and the passionate joy of single-mindedly pursuing a magnificent obsession degenerated into an anxiety about “being happy.” Maintaining this kind of thinking, Nietzsche opines, is the mark of a “profoundly average creature” with “fatigued instincts,” and who is “tired of life.” Nietzsche derides these “herd creatures” for naively neglecting the sublime joys of life in order to avoid suffering and “aid digestion”: “‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ – so asks the Last Man and blinketh!”

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Those who elevate themselves above the herd don’t seek a tensionless state as rationality dictates; rather, they stretch the bow tighter than ever, because “one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. The noble instinctively seek out the path of resistance, Nietzsche says. The primordial drive for the noble is not finding a state of happiness but rather an obstacle worthy of them through which they can test their strength and grow. “That tension of the soul in misfortune which cultivates its strength, its terror at the sight of great destruction, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, exploiting misfortune, and whatever of depth, mystery, mask, spirit, cunning and greatness has been bestowed upon it – has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?” Nietzsche thinks living this way is sure to generate pain (“with this Homeric happiness in one's soul one is also more capable of suffering than any other creature under the sun”). Yet, time and time again, he implores that the pain is well worth the transcendent joy to which one aspires. “Everyone who has ever built anywhere a "new heaven" first found the power thereto in his own hell.” By reaching beyond one’s grasp, one adapts by overcoming and recreating oneself (notice the contrast to Socrates’ call to “know thyself,” which presupposes a metaphysical state of being rather than becoming). The ultimate goal is not self-actualization, but self-transcendence. Life then for the strong is a process of ceaseless overcoming: “One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive ... I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself." Nietzsche urges us not to be seduced by the “illusion of stability” provided in the “other-world” of rationality, which he considers a sedative – an imaginary place to escape the harsh realities of living. (It is worth noting here that Nietzsche is not advocating for us to abandon rationality, but rather to put it in an instrumental rather than governing context). The noble don’t turn away from tragedy, but view it as an affirmation of life. Turning away from suffering is actually a function of turning away from life. Calicles, from the Platonic dialogues, hits a similar note when he contemptuously remarks that Socrates’ theory implies that “rocks and corpses” are happy. While rationality – being metaphysically static – fundamentally tends towards preservation, the noble instincts work in the opposite direction, Nietzsche says. “For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is – to live dangerously.” Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar Animations, articulated this notion in a commencement speech in which he urged the graduates, in true Nietzschean fashion, to “stay hungry” and “stay foolish.” The fact is we are all going to die (and in extremely short order, in the grand scheme of things); so, self-preservation should be a secondary drive. “Knowing that I am going to die soon,” Jobs said, “is the best tool I have to avoid falling into the trap of thinking I have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

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The Romantic approach to Life Design Living in a way that joyously affirms life means embracing the risks and ambiguities that come with that approach. It means approaching life as an artist approaches his canvas. Anyone who knows an artist (or is one herself) knows the turmoil and self-torture that takes place in the creative process. Yet the artist’s reward is of the elevated kind, for what greater joy and affirmation of power is there than to create something that is beautiful? The “creative process” is not restricted to artists, in the literal sense. The creative process is simply a matter of creating value. Ultimately it’s a matter of creating your own values and having the courage to live by them – and to see them manifest. There is no shortage of concrete outcomes that can arise from this; whether it be becoming a doctor, or getting into research, or getting married, and so on. The point is that the outcome truly is your own creation. As Nietzsche says, “‘This is my way; where is yours?’ – Thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way—that does not exist.” You know you’re on the right track when you look at your own dominant drives and can say they come from a position of strength rather than weakness. Nietzsche emphasizes that desiring is not enough: the truly noble are those who turn their will to power inwards to become masters of themselves. One should not shy away from this process, as "no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” But while desiring is not enough, it must be present to pull one to higher peaks. Tony Robbins, internationally renowned peak-performance expert and author of “Awaken the Giant Within,” writes, “People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” Jim Collins, entrepreneur, consultant, and author of “From Good to Great”, articulates the fundamental dilemma: “We all make choices about how we live our lives. You can take a paint-by-numbers approach, or you can start with a blank canvas. When you paint by numbers, the end result is guaranteed. You know what it’s going to be, and it might be good, but it will never be a masterpiece. Starting with a blank canvas is the only way to get a masterpiece, but you could also blow up. So, are you going to pick the paint-by-numbers kit or the blank canvas?” “We have discovered happiness, say the Last Men, and they blink” -Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra



I Heart NY An interview with filmmaking prodigy Joseph Zentil

Joseph Zentil is a 21 year-old filmmaker from Toronto. He is the founder and President of Zentil Productions, and has directed numerous short films and internationally acclaimed music videos including The Johnstones “Bank Song” and George Reefah’s “Paparazzi”. So, tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from, about your upbringing and how you became interested in the film industry. Growing up in Toronto gave me the opportunity to be exposed to films and music. In high school I was particularly interested in music. I played drums and bass in a number of bands. I guess this lead to photography. It was kind of a hobby, shooting live bands, doing press photos. I can definitely say that what I do today is the result of a progression of interests, it’s the way I am wired, I’ve always been compelled to create things. It’s embedded in my personality. How did you go from Toronto prep school to film school in Manhattan? What prompted you to stray from the conventional path that was laid out for you? I was doing the whole photography thing at the time so art school seemed like the right move. My family is in the real estate business; I think it’s great but just not for me. What did people in your life say when you declared that you were going to be a filmmaker? feel that a lot of people don’t understand the arts. I was lucky to have had a good art teacher in high school, she helped me discover a lot of opportunities in the field. As I mentioned before, photography turned into filmmaking for me. Music videos were a good start, everyone can relate to that, its unique and exciting, something people can see. I doubted myself, especially early on. But the more like-minded people I met, the more I realized that doubt is part of being an artist. Seeing this amongst peers and people I looked up to gave me a new level of comfort. What motivates you to keep working at such a risky profession when safer options exist?

This is what I want to do more than anything. Express myself creatively, visually. It’s a great opportunity to tell a story the way you want to, as an author. Story telling is an age-old tradition, I choose to do it through film. Was there ever a point at which you thought you had made the wrong choice, and thought about packing it in and heading home to Toronto? No. What's been your career highlight so far/ when did you have your "I can make it in this industry" moment? I was directing a video for George Reefah, we closed down Commissioners Street in downtown Toronto for filming. We had two 60-foot lifts holding 20,000-watt lights illuminating the street. We were shooting a chase sequence where two motorcycles were trailing a Porsche. We had the camera car out - I was talking to the driver, and he was telling me that he had just wrapped production on the Dark Knight. Getting to work with someone of that caliber was amazing. Tell us about some of your upcoming projects that we should look out for. I’m particularly proud of “The Motel”, the (short) film stars Israeli actor Omer Barnea and New York native Alix Liiv. We just finished post-production and submitted to around 15 international film festivals. I just found out today that we received official selection for the 11th Annual Milwaukee International Short Film Festival. Still waiting on others. My latest (short) Film, “Im Only Sleeping; Clyde 2004/2005” is a back-story to a feature I’ve been writing for the past two years. The feature details the conflicts between the members of a rock band. I want to explore their sexual relationships. The short is about “Clyde” the drummer, played by Canadian actor Zak Longo. As for music videos, I’m really excited about my recent collaborations with Canadian band “The Johnstones”. We have two videos currently playing on Much Music. Edge 102.1 just named them one of top 10 bands to look out for in 2009. Check out Joseph’s work at, and his bio on IMDB.

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A Presidential Olive Branch Historical precedents for a lasting peace in the Middle East Sean O’Loghlen

On June 4, 2009, President Barrack Obama gave a speech at the University of Cairo. In his typically eloquent and articulate manner of oration, the president explored the dynamics of the relationship between the United States of America and the Islamic world. He postulated that the apparent cultural clash between the two is related to a reciprocity of misunderstanding regarding their respective natures. Many Americans see the Islamic world as backward, primitive and repressive – while some Muslims view the United States as a secular evil empire which exploits both resources and people. Owing to his unique heritage and personal experience, Obama has the capacity to foster a climate of mutual understanding and co-operation between these worlds, which have been at odds in recent years. This is essential if the spectre of Islamic fascism and the concomitant phenomenon of extremist terrorism are to ever be dispelled. The speech was a groundbreaking one – truly in keeping with this issue’s theme of inspiring an enlightened generation. It is already affecting the political climate of the Middle East, with some sources claiming it was an integral part of the electoral defeat Hezbollah suffered in Lebanon days later. In it, the president emphasized the necessity of co-operation between the West and the people of Islam, in the interest of attaining peace in the Middle East within a stable framework, and facilitating substantive economic development to enrich some of the world’s poorest people. Far from being simple rhetoric and political posturing, the speech represents what this author feels is a major ideological departure from the “cowboy diplomacy” that had typified his predecessor’s tenure as president. The question is, though, will it work? Conservative pundits and war hawks would be hesitant to support the notion that diplomacy will go far in neutralizing the threat posed by Islamic fascism – and they would be right. But the strength in Obama’s strategy is that he is not trying to appeal to the irrational sensibilities of the small militant fringe of Islam. Rather he is trying to build a cross-cultural partnership with reasonable Muslims, to win their support for America rather than the extremists. He notes that it has traditionally been other Muslims who have suffered the most at the hands of these extremists. But when the United States makes a grave foreign policy error – such as the unilateral invasion of Iraq, in the context of little to no recent provocation and with no substantive justification – it is much harder for sensible Muslims to support America. That war especially has only leant credence to the charges of the extremists that America is an evil force which abuses its power to subjugate and humiliate Muslims.

Through the speech, Obama has presented himself to the Islamic world not as a superior seeking to impose the wishes of the West upon them, but as an equal in search of partnership. An examination of history in two regions of the world touched by terrorism – Quebec and Ireland – demonstrates that this conciliatory approach is generally the most effective manner to foster long term, stable peace. The terrorists who perpetrate their acts of mass destruction and violence are a small cadre of extremists, without question. However, they cannot operate totally independently for long, and must enjoy at least some measure of support from the civilian populace. To defeat Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other organizations that fall under the Islamic fascist umbrella, it is absolutely necessary that the world image of America and the broader Western community improve. Granted, military action against extremists is still necessary – nay, essential – but without a simultaneous appeal for co-operation and partnership with the sensible majority of Muslims, such acts smack of neo-colonialism and imperialism, which will only inflame tensions and exacerbate the original problem rather than solve it. For instance, consider the Front du Liberation du Quebec, a militant nationalist organization with the avowed goal of attaining the political independence of Quebec. To fulfill this ambition, the members of the organization used bombings, robberies, riots, violence and kidnappings with the ultimate aim of a Marxist revolution. From the beginning of their campaign in 1963, the FLQ gradually garnered public support for its goals by appealing to Quebecois nationalism and the province’s impressionable, idealistic youth. The culmination of their efforts was the October crisis, when they abducted 2 individuals – James Richard Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, and Pierre Laporte, the Quebec Labour Minister – and presented a list of demands to the federal and provincial governments. The actions of both the Canadian government and the FLQ at this point are critical to understanding how things ultimately unfolded. Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act in a controversial move to give the government and law enforcement sweeping powers to break up the terrorist organization. However, Trudeau was careful to justify this to the public in a televised address. He expressed his distaste for having to resort to the War Measures act, and also noted that simply arresting those responsible and punishing them would not suffice. In the interest of creating lasting stability for the province, he told the people of Canada:



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“This government has pledged that it will introduce legislation which deals not only with the symptoms but with the social causes which often underlie or serve as an excuse for crime and disorder.” The response of the FLQ to Trudeau’s actions was to murder Pierre Laporte, one of their hostages. However, this action failed to elicit the excessively harsh or repressive response from the Canadian government that they had hoped for and probably expected. Rather, by resorting to such senseless brutality – which was by this point clearly unwarranted, given the conduct of the federal government – they discredited themselves in the eyes of the public. Exposed as the sadistic sociopaths they were, with their ill-defined and abstract goals of revolution, they lost support from the civilian populace, who instead rallied around their democratically elected government. Indeed, the FLQ serves as an excellent example of how a terrorist organization should effectively be dispensed with. Ultimately the October crisis – and the FLQ itself, for that matter – was resolved with minimal loss of life. At the other end of the spectrum is the Irish Republican Army which has persisted in various incarnations since the early twentieth century, though it’s ideological roots reach back much further into the annals of militant Irish nationalism. The organization was born into the context of a nation that was on the brink of civil war. Substantial political gains had recently been made by the agrarian Catholic majority of the island through mass political mobilization in the late 1800s, spearheaded by leaders such as Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator.” By the 1900s, Ireland was on the road to “Home Rule,” which would amount to a status of autonomy for the island within the United Kingdom. This was enough to satisfy the majority of Irish people who sought a peaceable solution to their reasonable qualms with British government, though the staunchest Irish nationalists still demanded a republic. These individuals formed the core of the organization that became the early Irish Republican Army. Another group not happy with the impending development of Home Rule was the Ulster Presbyterian community, a majority in the North of Ireland but a small minority when looked at in the context of the entire island. They sought to retain the political status quo, owing to their cultural affinity for and economic ties to Britain – and lack thereof to their Catholic compatriots. With the tacit support of the British army and local politicians, militant Protestants were able to arm themselves in a similar manner to the IRA and were prepared to violently resist an attempted political separation of Ireland from Great Britain. At the start of 1914, Ireland appeared to be on the verge of a violent confrontation between the IRA and the Ulster Presbyterian militants, with the British apparently caught in the midst of an impending internecine struggle for control. Up to this point, Ireland had been relatively stable owing to progressive reforms in political structure and land ownership that had been implemented by the great British statesman William Ewart Gladstone (affectionately known as the G.O.M., or “Grand Old Man” by his supporters – and pejoratively as “God’s Only Mistake” by his detractor and political rival Benjamin Disraeli). Taking power in a time when Ireland was recently rocked by the 1867 Fenian uprising, Gladstone’s avowed goal was to “pacify Ireland” and kill militant Irish nationalism with kindness. His efforts to institute responsible and reasonable government were intended to sooth the embers that had been sparked by the misgivings associated with Britain’s earlier abuse and exploitation of the country and its people. This strategy proved effective for several decades, and lends credence to Obama’s approach of emphasizing conciliation and co-operation between two sides that are at odds. For an authority to properly disarm and defeat politically minded militants, those militants must be discredited in the eyes of the public. This is best accomplished through a campaign to redress the often legitimate qualms the public has with that authority. Though the extremists are unlikely to be satisfied, they are too few in number to be sustained without public support.

After Gladstone left power, though, tensions became inflamed between the Catholic and Protestant communities in Ireland, and the situation rapidly deteriorated until an armed confrontation appeared imminent. Only the outbreak of the First World War on the continent of Europe allowed Catholics and Protestants to temporarily put aside their differences. Irish Nationalists and Ulster Presbyterian Loyalists alike signed up in large numbers to go and fight for crown and country in the fields of France and Belgium. Ostensibly, both sides did this to demonstrate their fundamental loyalty and gain support for their respective causes from the British political establishment. Of the Irish Nationalists, however, the more extreme Republican fringe refused to take up arms for an English king and seized the opportunity of a distracting European War to stage a rebellion on Easter Sunday, 1916. The Easter Rising was modest in size, especially when compared to the 1848 revolutions that swept continental Europe decades earlier and the French Revolutions which rocked that state throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The republicans were ambitious in their goals, but few in number and lacking in effective planning and communication skills. What was intended to be a national revolution instead was a conflagration limited in its scope to the city core of Dublin, the Irish capital. The full mobilization of domestic police forces and British soldiers stationed in Ireland meant that the fiasco was put to an end in approximately one week.


Bernard Law Montgomery, better known as a leading British military commander in the North African theatre of the Second World War, had been present in Ireland during the period of insurgency. He noted the difficulty the British faced in dealing with the Irish Republicans, which he articulated as follows: “Personally, my whole attention was given to defeating the rebels but it never bothered me a bit how many houses were burnt. I think I regarded all civilians as 'Shinners' and I never had any dealings with any of them. My own view is that to win a war of this sort, you must be ruthless. Oliver Cromwell, or the Germans, would have settled it in a very short time. Nowadays public opinion precludes such methods, the nation would never allow it, and the politicians would lose their jobs if they sanctioned it. That being so, I consider that [Prime Minister] Lloyd George was right in what he did, if we had gone on we could probably have squashed the rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops.”

The uprising has since been immortalized in Irish folk ballads and become an integral part of the national ethos, seen as an instance of a courageous few struggling against an implacable foe. At the time, though, the uprising was disparaged by most Irish people as a disgraceful act of cowardice, considering that Britain was distracted by the brutal war being fought in Europe at the time. Further to this, given the poor turnout for the rebellion, some observers have noted that there were many more Irishmen fighting for the crown in Belgium than there were fighting against the crown in Dublin. This underscores the long term effects of Gladstone’s policies - most Irish people felt at least some affinity for Britain and were not entirely keen on totally severing the tie. No longer were they medieval oppressors, but legitimate, benevolent and responsible rulers.

To say the British had not been ruthless is something of an understatement by Montgomery, given documented cases of British forces conducting themselves on the island with a remarkable lack of discipline. Arbitrary retaliations, often against unarmed civilians guilty of no crimes, and the torching and sieges of entire villages typified the conduct of British military and auxiliary forces on the island at the time. Resultantly, as their wanton acts of destruction continued, so the hearts of the Irish people were hardened and continued rule from London was not possible without a substantial military commitment. In that respect, Montgomery was right. Furthermore, for a nation that had just finished fighting the bloodiest conflict in history up to that point, the British public had no interest in fighting a protracted war of attrition against a neighbouring people with whom they shared much in the way of cultural and historical heritage.

The 1916 uprising, though, has historically been considered the beginning of Ireland’s ultimately successful struggle for independence from the British crown. How was the small cadre of individuals who took up arms on Easter – largely ideologues and Romantics who lacked a discrete plan or strategy for attaining victory – able to turn the tide of public favour? They didn’t – the British did it for them. In the aftermath of the rising, the British arrested upwards of 3,000 individuals, many of whom had no direct connection to the violence on Easter. Of these, 90 were sentenced to death – a notable precedent as in the past the norm was to imprison Irish rebels (or deport them, but by 1900 Australia was no longer a penal colony). Among those killed was James Connolly, a socialist revolutionary who was so badly maimed in the fighting during the uprising that he had to be strapped to a chair in order to be executed by firing squad. The ruthlessness and high-handed nature of the British response resulted in an outpouring of public support for the rebels, and increased disaffection with rule from London.

Gladstone had done much to pacify Irish republicanism through political concessions, to the point that it was largely discredited and relegated to the extreme fringe of Irish politics. However, subsequent British policies in Ireland squandered whatever political capital Gladstone had accumulated with the Irish public and gradually made their continued rule impossible. As noted earlier, the ostensible root of Britain’s deteriorating control of the island was rooted in the Catholic-Protestant dichotomy that emerged in the North on the eve of the First World War. However, one could contend that this divide was only fostered by the British, who showed clear favouritism of the Protestant faction. The British also clearly had a predilection for applying such a “divide and conquer” strategy when one looks at their management of Muslims and Hindus in India, and Boers and Africans in South Africa.

Michael Collins, an emergent leader in the nascent Irish Republican Army, gave momentum to the growing public support for their cause by launching further subversive assaults against British military and police installations on the island, as well as assassinating key British political and administrative figures. Such acts of subversion drew merciless and cold-blooded reprisals from the Royal Irish Constabulary and British Army, which had been the goal of Collins and his men. The harsher the British became, the more the Irish people were galvanized to support the Republican cause. This is the antithesis of Obama’s approach – and the outcome of this struggle underscores the long-term failings such repressive and aggressive policies necessarily yield. Ultimately, the British acquiesced, noticing that their position in Ireland had become untenable – largely due to their own mismanagement of the problem of militant Republicanism. The British Prime Minister Lloyd George signed an agreement with representatives from the Irish Republican Army which resulted in substantial devolvement of political power to most of the island. Although it was not a total victory for the I.R.A. since a part of Ireland (the North, where the Presbyterians were a majority, albeit a slim one) remained directly under British control, and the new state was a dominion rather than a republic, it was much more than anyone could have dreamt of for Ireland a century earlier.

These lessons are ones that the United States would have been apt to learn from, as its policy makers have learned in the past few decades the danger of using proxies in conflicts for the furtherance of geopolitical power. The Central Intelligence Agency’s arming and training of the Afghan Mujahadeen against the Soviet Union proved to be a grave mistake when that organization, after attaining victory, evolved into the Taliban. The Taliban, in turn, gave support and shelter to the terrorists who perpetrated the infamous 9/11 attacks on New York City. The United States also used Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a proxy in a struggle against the newly proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iran in a bloody war that lasted eight years and cost perhaps more than a million lives. Of course, Hussein went on to attack American ally Kuwait and threaten the interests of the United States in the Persian Gulf.


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The Obama administration will hopefully make an attempt to be above acts of such duplicity and manipulation. His speech at Cairo University shows promise in reconciling the United States with the sensible majority of the Muslim world. These people, like any rational person, legitimately crave peace and stability. However, they will naturally find a power that seeks to impose its political and economic interests on them through military force distasteful and untrustworthy. Beyond this, they will be more susceptible to the jingoistic and xenophobic calls for suicide bombings and attacks against Americans from the small extremist fringe present in their communities.


Demonstrating to the Islamic world that the United States is not the “Great Satan” that Ayatollah Khomeini charged it as through a more altruistic, less high-handed approach to foreign policy would likely be well met by most Muslims. Obama has already begun this with his speech – and hopefully he will follow through and that his future foreign policy decisions will reflect this. The ongoing situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the recent election troubles in Iran, represent major challenges Obama will have to overcome. But if he can stay to this path, this author thinks that ultimately a major reconciliation can occur. The United States may one day enjoy broader public support amongst the peoples of the Maghreb and the Middle East, of the Indian Subcontinent and the Indonesian archipelago. Once that occurs, then those extremist Islamic fascists, filled with gall and vitriol, will find it much harder to operate and carry out attacks. Their ranks will be limited, and their access to funds and shelter greatly diminished – facilitating much easier defeat by direct military intervention – to be conducted in concert with the powers that be in the Islamic world, to maintain the semblance of good-will and partnership.

There are many lessons to be drawn from the experiences of Quebec and Ireland with respect to terrorism. In Quebec, a concerted policy that sought to maintain the rule of law as well as redress the legitimate concerns of the public was shown to work. The extremist ideologues came to be exposed for what they were – fighting for a cause that had no real merit to it in a manner that spread fear and panic. In Ireland, the British engineered the demise of their own hegemony by attempting to impose their rule by force rather than by appealing to the people of Ireland to help them. The Republican militants started out as a small fringe group made up of Romantics and Nationalists who in many ways were simply emulating movements in other regions of Europe which were legitimately suffering under ruthless foreign oppression (such as the Greeks under Ottoman rule and the Slavs of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires). However, when the British began to employ policies such as executing prisoners and sacking and burning villages, that distinction between the Irish and ethnic groups in Central-Eastern Europe that were truly suffering under an Imperialist yoke became less distinct. The British undid decades of what good, responsible government had earned them – the trust of the Irish people. Furthermore, they legitimized the qualms of the Republicans, so that they were transformed from a small, undermanned and poorly equipped group into a large and determined fighting force. Granted there are some major distinctions to be noted between the FLQ, the IRA, and Islamic fascist organizations. The FLQ was an avowedly Marxist institution, and the IRA, while its membership was drawn from the Irish Roman Catholic Community, was also secular and in fact disparaged by the Catholic Church itself. In contrast, Islamic fascist organizations invariably root their ideology in their interpretation of Islam and its history. Furthermore, the FLQ and IRA were regional in scope – while some Islamic fascist groups clearly have a global goal, launching attacks in locales as diverse as the islands of Indonesia and London and New York, financial centres of economic powerhouses. Beyond this, though, the manners in which the FLQ failed and the IRA succeeded offer some clear lessons for policy makers who must deal with the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and similar factions. Obama’s tenure as the President of the United States will hopefully mark a watershed in modern American – and global – history. His predecessor attempted to use a policy that fought fire with fire – using unilateral military action against ill-defined targets to combat the militant extremists who had successfully rocked the nation to its core. However, as things stand today, almost 8 years since September 11th, approximately 180,000 American soldiers are stationed abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the latter nation, things remain remarkably unstable owing to a resurgent Taliban that cannot quite be fully stamped out by military action alone. In Iraq, though things are better than they were a few years earlier, the nation remains a hotbed for terrorist activity and could potentially collapse into a messy sectarian civil war if things deteriorate further.


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In Defense of Internet’s Awfulness Celine Song

Invention of Internet is a radical turn in the history of mass media. We live in the aftermath of the revolution and the result of it can be roughly summarized in twofold: The available information to an average user of Internet is overwhelmingly large in quantity; the quality of information is often unregulated and consequently poor. Internet is also increasingly user-generated, interactive, and anonymous. Anybody and everybody can contribute to it with an access to the World Wide Web. These essential qualities of Web 2.0 inevitably lead to downright awfulness. A casual scroll down the comments section will without fail convince you that Internet is a hellish zoo of freaks and assholes. People are shameless, insane, rude, and sometimes just plain stupid – and we reveal this side of ourselves most openly online. Internet allows for open flow of information and gives everyone and anyone with a network connection to explore and express their ideas. That sounds nice, but it also means that idiotic and dangerous minds can explore and express their ideas on the same level as intelligent and sane ones. There is truly nothing one cannot find on the Internet. Shockingly resourceful websites of disgusting ideologies such as KKK is only a click away. Owing to the anonymity that is possible on the web, you can meet and talk to people who are aroused by chewing ice, Evangelical Christians with zoophilia, fetishists for four-legged men (“boytaurs”), pro-anorexics, and of course, people with pedophilic and incestuous fantasies. The Internet is farcically chaotic, and it can be very frightening at times to see the mess it is capable of. A personal hero of mine is Michael Kinsley who founded Slate, one of the first online magazines in the history of publishing. In 2005, while he was working for the Los Angeles Times, he launched a project called Wikitorial. Using the wiki technology that Wikipedia is based on, this project allowed any Internet user to edit a pre-written editorial online. The original article was an opinion piece about the Iraq war, called War and Consequences. During the two days it was up online, the 1000 word article was expanded to nearly 3000 words. Some people approached the topic at hand with cohesive arguments and rational assertions, while others got angry, profane, and sometimes just outrageous. Unfortunately, this fascinating experiment had to be shut down merely after two days, because the content digressed to disgusting child pornography, and then just as quickly replaced with a popular Internet meme called goatse, which is basically a large photo of a male anus.

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But there is still hope...

“The web is chaos, but amusingly enough, that precise nature of the medium is often what saves it.”

Considering everything, it is a serious challenge for a conscientious web browser to believe in the intelligence, dignity, and nobility of the human race. The horror, the horror! We cannot help but cry out loud that this wasteland must be shut down to prevent further damage to everything. It makes us despair of the medium altogether. But in spite of everything, I still don’t believe that it is as bad as it appears. I remain optimistic about our generation’s abilities to be in control of the web, because I think major problems Internet have actually solved themselves. The web is chaos, but amusingly enough, that precise nature of the medium is often what saves it.

1. Internet users are encouraged to be active

The problem of “too much information” is a serious challenge to the users of Internet, who inevitably run into contradicting opinions and information such as “Obama is a Muslim” and “Obama is not a Muslim”. When we discover these contradictions, of which there are plenty, we cannot help but realize that information online is subject to doubt. We learn that what we find are not authoritative truths, but information that should be challenged, cross-referenced, and fact-checked. We see that most of it is wildly unreliable. And once this seed of doubt is planted in an Internet user, manipulating mass opinion becomes extremely difficult. The active participants online develop into relatively skeptical and critical consumers of information. Internet breeds skepticism and critical thinking, and these are invaluable things for us to have, especially when surfing through its vastness. Internet trains its users to use it responsibly.

2. Internet largely self-regulates

Omnipresence is an uncontroversial and common attribute of an Internet user, since when I post on a forum or a blog, everyone with an Internet connection can access my post, no matter where they physically live. When I edit an entry on Wikipedia, everyone with an Internet connection can see it and refer to it. When this kind of power is given to a single person with malevolence and mistaken beliefs (like Stalin or Hitler) or an idiot (like Sarah Palin) the result can be extremely dangerous. But it is difficult for a single Internet user to be powerful when everyone has a connection to Internet and also free to say whatever they want. For example, state-controlled radio announcements in WWII were powerful, because no one could present the opposite point of view alongside it. Every piece of information was presented like an irrefutable fact, and people were reduced to masses, passively listening and reacting to the stimulus like a herd of sheep. Internet, on the other hand, is increasingly interactive. Everyone can be an active participant of the mass communication technique, producing and challenging the information exchanged through it. This forces us to be self-conscious. An Internet user is humbled by the fellow omnipresent Internet users that constantly monitor the content of their information. If I post a distortion of the truth online, hundreds of people will make chastising and angry comments on it within hours. If I write an opinion without any sources to back up the arguments, hundreds of readers will either mock me or destroy my argument. If I support a presidential candidate by creating a YouTube video, hundreds of videos that contradict and parody it will emerge. On the Internet, our vanity is kept in check by each other. We ourselves become the regulators of the madness. So let’s get over the fact that Internet is awful Once we examine the big picture with a clear head, it is not nearly as bad as the naysayers exaggerate. When all is said and done, Internet remains a device which allows for expressivity with a level of freedom that was not previously possible. That is a very good thing. It is an impressive communication and organization tool and it offers us many fantastic benefits to offset the awfulness. And it is not all horrible. I’m quite certain that you have at one point come across some great online communities where discussion is vibrant and relevant. I bet you have seen some really creative projects and endeavours online. I’m sure you have learned heck of a lot online, way more than you could ever have hoped to without a free access to the rest of the world at your fingertips. And no matter how much we complain about the problem of “too much” as a result of Internet’s supremacy, I don’t think we can deny that too much information, too much freedom, and too much communication is infinitely better than too little. It’s true that Internet is awful. But I think the wise thing for us to do is to just get over it. We should acknowledge the awfulness of Internet (which is just another way of saying “the awfulness of people” since it is nothing without its users), embrace it, and move on – then figure out how to amplify the benefits and play down the costs. You can email Celine at Check out her blog at

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An Argument for Moral Relativism Defending a different perspective Jeff Fraser

The following is intended to be a reflection, rather than an academic essay. It will take for granted its interpretations of certain philosophers’ views without citing them, and it will not include the specific historical instances that have lead me to my conclusion. In this sense the argument is incomplete and should not be enough to convince anyone of the veracity of my claims. My hope is to incite thought rather than judgment. Forgotten Aspirations The first thing we must all understand about ethics is that it is directed. A satisfying theory of ethics must not only answer the question, “How can one be good?” – a question many of us have become obsessed with – but also, “What is achieved by being good?” or synonymously, “What does it mean to be good?” A moral actor always has an aim, or in jargon, a teleological end. A moral law cannot merely describe a correct way to act; it must describe the correct way to act in order to secure something, and all moral laws in a given theory must be characterized with respect to this something. Maybe I will be better off if I act morally; maybe society will as a whole; or maybe some supreme being will be satisfied. But without any of these ends, what would be my motivation to act morally? Why would moral action be desirable in the first place? Much moral philosophy is devoted to the belief that what is good is that which is inherently and unquestionably valuable, but this is an approach that avoids the most important and interesting questions of ethics. For example, the prevailing objectivist theory of ethics today is Utilitarianism, which is, roughly speaking, the idea that the most moral action in a given situation is the one that promotes the greatest utility, regardless of who that utility belongs to. To some theorists, utility is defined as ‘well-being’ or ‘expediency’, but for the sake of this argument we will consider them equivalent to ‘happiness’. We can imagine a great pool of the world’s overall (or average, in some cases) happiness, and moral actions as those that help to fill it.

There is nothing wrong with Utilitarianism, except that it does not tell the whole story. It is more or less a framework for determining proper action, given a quantity that one wishes to maximize. But by leaving the ‘happiness’ quantity undefined, theorists have put the cart before the horse. The implicit assumption of many Utilitarian theorists is that since we can measure a mathematical quantity – the number of people who are happy – we don’t have any need to understand what happiness is or, more importantly, why it should be the aim of ethical action. While it may be the case that happiness is inherently desirable to individuals, some justification is needed to show that everyone is made happy by the same predictable kinds of action, or that the direction of an individual’s moral action should be to promote everyone else’s happiness as much as her own. It may seem that by refining the question with what we philosophy students like to call the ‘But why?’ regress, I am giving an argument for moral nihilism – the belief that moral action is actually a fruitless enterprise, an illusion created by evolutionary heritage and cultural history. This is not far from the truth. The crisis of postmodernism, which was diagnosed by Nietzsche and popularized by his successors, is in part due to the recognition of the importance of this regress to moral philosophy. In previous eras, the question “What does it mean to be good?” could be avoided by defining ‘good’ as that which some deity desired, a quantity belonging to the realm of revelation rather than reason. In a secular society, it is difficult to find a stable, objective direction for moral action, without positing some sort of moral law equivalent to a physical constant of the universe. This lack of options generally either leads to a rejection of morality altogether, as with nihilism, or a deliberate setting aside of such questions, as with theories such as Utilitarianism. I do not believe such an objective end for ethics exists. However, I also do not believe that this requires us to discount ethics or its essential role in human society. My contention is that the objectivity of ethics is unnecessary for its import, and that what is needed is a theory of ethics that can account for the variability of teleological ends from person to person and society to society. Such theories are often called ‘relativist.’ You may have heard of relativism from the surprising amount of popular criticism it receives, and the supposed danger it represents to society, but in truth there doesn’t seem to be any reason that relativism should be incompatible with most modern day moral values, or the ethical systems we use to apply them.

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What is Moral Relativism? Relativism, as a general epistemic theory, can be formulated as the belief that the property of ‘objective truth’ is meaningless. That is, the importance of a statement about the world is not in whether it corresponds to a world of fact, independent of human experience. Rather, the value or ‘truth’ of propositions is established entirely by (largely unconscious) consensus. The nature of the group that provides this consensus varies from proposition to proposition. For example: the proposition “God exists” may be true relative to religious believers; “human rights are inalienable” may be true relative to the people of the United States of America; “killing human beings is evil” may be true relative to all human beings; and “water is a liquid at room temperature and standard pressure” may be true relative to all living beings with empirical experience. Note that in this last example, relativism does not suggest that it is possible for water to not be a liquid under standard conditions, but that we come to decide that this statement is true by the consensus of empirical evidence. What most relativists desire is the elimination of a conceptual ‘objective world of fact’ of which we can have no direct experience, and which we have no reason to posit at all. In relativism as applied to the field ethics, we understand that the aim of an ethical theory like Utilitarianism is dependent upon the group of people considering the theory. The procedures one uses to pursue one’s moral ends may be independent of the end itself. The advantage, of course, is that we no longer need to think of morals as inscribed in the fabric of the universe, nor do we need to answer once for all time the question of “What is achieved by being good?” since moral actors may answer this question however they are disposed to. It is much easier to understand this idea if we use an analogy with the theory of Galilean relativity. To facilitate this analogy, I will begin referring to ‘moral values’ as the collection of precepts that collectively define the ethical aim that a given group of people may have. Consider a ball rolling down a hill. In modern physics, we understand that the statement “The ball is moving” is, taken precisely, neither true nor false. Rather, the ball is moving with respect to the ground’s reference frame, and stationary relative to its own reference frame (in which the ground underneath the ball is moving). Neither the ground’s or the ball’s reference frame has precedence; both are equally valid perspectives from which to measure the motion of the ball. Thus, though the statement “Either the ball is moving or it is not moving” appears to be a tautology (and thus trivially true), it is actually meaningless. We can envision different systems of moral values as similar to frames of reference, and replace the previous statement with “Act x is morally good.” We might then say that this statement can similarly be neither true nor false, since it does not position itself with respect to a moral system. It might be true that x is good relative to moral system Y, but evil relative to moral system Z.

An example might be abortion, which is acceptable under the laws of some states, but reprehensible to many religious moral systems.

Just as with Galilean relativity, both these propositions can be true simultaneously without there being any contradiction. The controversial parallel that must be made, however, is that both moral systems are equally valid perspectives from which to measure the moral value of the act.This is difficult for many individuals to concede. To engage with a moral system is to treat it very much as if it were universal. In other words, if I hold certain moral values, I expect that other contradictory moral values are fallacious. The idea of simultaneously true moral values that oppose one another seems to undermine the very nature of a moral value, since values now become a matter of perspective. However, it should be noted that just as the ball actually is moving within the ground’s frame, actions actually are morally good or bad within given moral system. This is a highly misunderstood point, and if the strength of this analogy is accepted, relativism appears far less dangerous than has been suggested. Relativism does not mean that if I am an activist who is fighting female circumcision, I should respect another culture’s decision to enforce this practice. Rather, it means that within my moral system, the act of female circumcision is evil, everywhere, and for everyone, and I should treat it as if it were objectively evil. Moral values do not need to be universally held in order to be universally applicable. Just as the ball does not roll any slower because there is a frame in which it is not moving, so the existence of other moral perspectives does not diminish the strength of moral qualifications within a given system.

“an individual who hopes to act rationally as well as ethically should strive to eliminate contradiction within their values.” Note that although it is possible for moral values to contradict one another in different moral systems, it is not desirable for moral values to contradict one another within the same moral system, assuming certain logical principles are accepted. This can lead to what we might call an ‘inconsistent’ moral system. Consider that the statement “The ball is moving in its own reference frame” is false. If it were true, a lot of very strange things would logically follow. In the same way, moral values that contradict one another, if incorporated into the same system, can cause a meltdown of logical reasoning. Although it is often the case that such inconsistent systems do exist, an individual who hopes to act rationally as well as ethically should strive to eliminate contradiction within their values.

Is Moral Relativism Arbitrary? Another common objection to relativism is that it gives the moral actor an undue amount of choice. If moral values are defined by groups of people, the argument goes, mustn’t they be arbitrary, and therefore worthless? One of the strengths of objectivism is that it maintains that there must be a reason for why actions are good or evil that is independent of the actor. But this objection fails to acknowledge that the values held by different groups are rarely chosen ones; they are a product of cultural and evolutional history. What is meant by ‘a truth given by consensus’ is not an

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“The prejudice towards believing that moral values must be held by everyone in order to be important seems unnecessary.” actively agreed upon conclusion, but merely a conclusion that most members of a group will come to when asked similar questions, that is evolved and shared as an aspect of the group’s identity. We have as much control over our moral values as we do over our own genetics. The arbitrariness critique does remain a potent one, however. It is certainly hard to acknowledge the normative strength of our moral values evolved in this way. We may be inclined to hold certain values based on our sociocultural history, but it hardly follows logically that we must hold them, and act according to them. I think this objection can only be answered with a shift of paradigm away from anthropocentrism. The prejudice towards believing that moral values must be held by everyone in order to be important seems unnecessary. It is quite evident that whether or not morals are universal, humans require them to function, both to facilitate social interaction and for our own mental health. It might be better to think of moral values as a set of operational axioms for the human psyche: the elements can be different from person to person, but the set cannot be empty. Again, it is helpful to remember that a subjective ethical aim need not be universally held to be universally applicable by a given actor. Modern ethical theories like Utilitarianism discuss how one should pursue the ‘good’ once one has found it, and this is what makes relativism so compatible with them. One might think of moral action as the motion of a ball, moral values as the push that sets the ball into motion down the hill, and the ethical theory as the physical laws like inertia that control the translation between the two. Although the push and the motion may be different from interaction to interaction, the physical laws remain constant. It may indeed be true that certain ethical theories are more logically valid than others, while ethical aim remains subjective. In this case ethical theories like Utilitarianism would be normative logical structures, which are consistent within themselves, but operate with variable axiomatic content. I use conditionals because it is very difficult to divorce ethical theories from their value assumptions, and in order to determine whether they could operate in a fashion as I have just described, this would need to occur. More modern ethical theories, in attempting to distance themselves from the question ethical aim have inadvertently made themselves more open to this kind of interpretation.

The Big Answers Moral relativism is not a theory concerning the way one should or should not pursue moral action. It is a theory about justification, whose central purpose is to address the question, “What does ‘good’ mean?” and it is this: ‘good’ is defined with respect to groups of people. Moral values are not constants that were written on stone tablets at the beginning of time. They may be different for different groups of people, and they can overlap without contradicting one another. This doesn’t, however, mean that values within a given system are any weaker than if that system were absolute. I won’t pretend that there aren’t many difficulties relativism still has to contend with. For instance, many moral values seem to be present throughout various moral systems, and their popularity seems to be proportional to their strength – “killing infants is wrong” and “killing close relatives is wrong” are good examples. Probably relative moral systems are stratified, such that a ‘moral system’ is actually composed of several layers, some of which obtain a larger consensus and are therefore superceding – as I mentioned when I said, “‘killing human beings is evil’ may be true relative to all human beings”. Another question concerns what ‘size’ of consensus is required to call a set of values a moral system – can a single human being have an independent moral system? If not, how many others must hold similar views? And relativism also bears a kind of problematized genealogical analysis of moral systems. How did the moral systems we have come to be? What are the power relationships moral systems have with one another? How do they influence each other? These are all questions that are worth answering, and this is only a short paper. What is needed is a shift of paradigm away from ethical objectivism. Whether one accepts relativism or not, the question of “What is ‘good’ and why do we need it?” is not one that we can expect to be easily or obviously answered. What has lingered in the decline of revelation, throughout moral philosophy and elsewhere, is the idea that good and evil are sacred, unassailable concepts – though it is difficult to see how they could be either without a deity to uphold them. It is about time that humanity broke down the wall that has prevented us from analyzing the nature of our own consciences, and started asking real questions about what morals are and why we need them.

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Tracing the Student Movement Raissa Killoran

One of the iconic photos of the Vietnam War era is of fourteen-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling over the slain body of Jeffery Miller on the campus of Kent State University. Her face is twisted in outrage and her arms gesture dramatically outwards. Aside from this vivid tableau, the scene is entirely unexceptional; the campus resembles any other and students walk casually in the distance. Jeffery Miller, however, was among four killed students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970 when guards shot into a protesting student crowd 67 times. What I found so immediately striking about this photo is how foreign the scenario is to present-day university students. University students live a unique existence. We have few extenuating responsibilities, yet live all the privileges of an adult status. We are essentially careless, save for basic living needs and academic expectations. We are also privileged enough to be surrounded by passionate, intelligent professionals in a variety of fields. If one wants to make change, there is no better place to be than a university. Further, university institutions are intended to be grounded in the belief that active curiosity is purposeful and relevant. But, in spite of the presence of this privilege, students could be taking greater advantage of it. In the midst of global atrocities, little is being done by student populations to assist the crises. This is not necessarily based in apathy, but rather in the need to become intellectually diligent. There are no anti-war protests, there are no impassioned demonstrations, and there are no zealous, fiery young people waving fists and screaming out against global human rights violations. We are not flooding the streets, we are not demanding that our voices be heard, and we are not the endearingly naïve clusters of twenty-somethings stricken by the atrocities of the world. And this is because we have nothing affecting our immediate sphere directly. We are also living in the aftermath of historically influential student protests, all of which were reactions to events either in the reactionary’s immediate sphere or being reported by news sources which were readily available. The American protests in response to the Vietnam War were a turning point in the collective attitude of a generation. Students literally drew the nation’s eye in their direction. They gathered in massive groups, were aware and concerned about violence across the globe, and insisted that their indignation be recognized. They were noisy and annoying and it worked- they made history. Charles Reich, author of The Greening of America (a commendation of the 60s counter-culture) and law professor at Yale University, described the vigor of the movement: “The whole emerging pattern, from ideals to campus demonstrations to beads to bell bottoms to the Woodstock Festival, makes sense and is part of a consistent philosophy. It is both necessary and inevitable, and in time will include not only youth, but all people in America.” Reich even dedicated his book to the students at Yale and their generation. This reaction was due to direct nature of the events- brothers and friends were being drafted and news networks were blasting violent imagery into homes. The injustice wasn’t distant, but close and urgent. In 2009, we are now in the twentieth anniversary of the events of Tiananmen Square, at which a protest crowd, led primarily by students and intellectuals, were fired upon indiscriminately by the armed forces. Thousands died in reaction to injustice enacted in their immediate surroundings. What is clear is that students can and do react with vigor and resolve. However, these are often close, personal reactions. Students were motivated by how injustice affected their daily lives and their sense of security. Otherwise, they were motivated by media-blasted conflicts which placed violent images into their homes. What is needed is a passionate curiosity on the part of students to seek out non-direct, non-media blasted events and react equally as strongly to these. In the prologue to Bertrand Russell’s autobiography, he states, “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” I thought it was interesting that Russell identified one of his passions as pity for the suffering of humanity; as if as naturally as one loves or wants to know, one would want to put the same degree of passion into making life better for other people. To be hell-bent on self-interested conflicts is, while purposeful, only stepping in shallow water. We’re students in the information age, with vast amounts of knowledge at our fingertips. At this point, it is reasonable to do more than react to disturbances in the near vicinity- we are capable of being effective from the micro level of the university to the global level. In this unique and fortunate situation, students can truly enact the same passions Russell outlines- an intellectual diligence, active curiosity and a headstrong passion for humanity.

I’m Too Sexy for my“Second Life” Melyssa Wright Lately I’ve been feeling bored and unimpressed with my dating life in Kingston and have questioned if it’s worth shaving my legs and spending a Saturday night suffering in a push-up bra and four-inch heels just to get groped by a Kingston Frontenac or nineteen-year-old Commerce student at Ale House. After three years of experiencing all “The Hub” has to offer, these days I’d much rather spend my nights surfing the net and watching YouTube videos in sweat pants instead of leaving Stages alone at 3 am. So when I heard about Second Life, a website that might allow me to enjoy the bar scene and get some action while eating Shawarma Shawarma in front of my computer, I got excited and decided to log on to my laptop to check out this unique and modern way to heat up my social life. Second Life is a three dimensional virtual world that allows ‘residents’ complete freedom to engage in their wildest fantasies and desires via avatars, computer generated representations of oneself or ones alter ego. Launched in 2003 by Linden Labs, Second Life has quickly become one of the fastest-growing and most popular Internet communities in recent times, with 13 million Internet-users having visited the site at least once and over 450 000 residents logging on in a given week. Given the success of the site, it appears people can’t resist the urge to escape the monotony of their real lives and enter a world that encourages them to be whoever they want to be and to behave in ways they can’t in their offline lives. There are no limits to the experiences Second Life users can create and just as in the real world, people can form relationships, attend university classes, travel, and hang out with friends in casinos, clubs, or shopping malls. Also, many are using Second Life as an opportunity to make money and a full working economy (Linden dollars) exists in Second Life, with people earning real-world money from businesses ranging from real estate to sex shops and brothels. .

Not surprisingly, just as sex dominates almost every aspect of online life, sex-play has become a major part of Second Life and is arguably the primary reason why Internet users are so enthralled with this virtual reality. This online world is a haven where people can fulfill their sexual fantasies by pretending to be the opposite sex or even a mythological or furry animal, experimenting with homosexuality, gaining employment as a dominatrix, and engaging in even the kinkiest of sexual acts. In fact, many residents of Second Life are forming serious sexual and emotional relationships through their avatars and Second Life is becoming a primary sexual outlet for many. If unfamiliar with the diverse world of online sex, it is difficult to imagine how Second Lifers engage in a variety of sexual activities without leaving their computer chair. However, the actual logistics of online intercourse are quite simple. Like other methods of cybersex, users of Second Life text and also voice chat descriptions of the sexual acts they are imaging, to their virtual partner or partners. However, Second Life offers a visual element to Internet sex play that is more creative than simply stripping in front of your webcam. Users can buy outfits to dress their avatars provocatively, or "skins" that allow them to appear nude and since sex is for profit in Second Life, default avatars have no genitalia. So, if residents want to get it on with other sexy avatars, users must purchase the body parts necessary for an active cyber sex life. Ultimately, residents are spending real money to equip their avatars with the parts needed for virtual intercourse.

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Once avatars are looking good and equipped with fully functioning genitalia, things on Second Life really start to heat up and more money can be made from the ability to buy sexual accessories. These include realistic-looking beds and other furniture, dildos and vibrators, and torture devices used in S&M fantasies. These sex toys allow for the real action to get started because furniture and other props have attached software, known as “scripts” or “pose balls” in Second Life lingo, that animate avatars through the motions of any sexual act one desires. Just as in real life, Second Life does have some societal regulations to which users must adhere and nudity and sexual behavior is forbidden in Second Life outside of private areas and sex clubs registered as adult only. You usually have to pay to enter these areas and the kinkier and more complicated the act, the more money you must be willing to spend. Fortunately if you’re not in the mood for some Second Life lovin’, you won’t be forced to witness avatars going at it and can choose to drop into Second Life to enjoy the beautiful scenery and impressive architecture without the fear of getting unwanted advances in public avatar orgies. This wasn’t always the case and recently, due to criticism against sexual content dominating most areas of the virtual land, Linden labs has restricted sexual activity to adult only areas and has even gone as far as dedicating an entire virtual continent to sex. Following in the real world tradition of sex selling, residents are profiting from all this kinky Internet behaviour and individuals ranging from computer experts who design sexual scripts to soccer moms earning some extra cash as virtual prostitutes, are making money from sex on Second Life. The sex industry on Second Life can be very profitable, and one of the leading vendors of Second Life genitalia and sex equipment is "Stroker Serpentine," the alter ego of self-proclaimed average Joe, Kevin Alderma. Deemed the Hugh Heffner of Second Life, Alderman or “Stroker” makes over 6 figures a year from his second life sex business. Stroker has quickly rose to fame as a second life Casanova and although he is married with two children who know of his steamy Internet alter ego, he also has a second life girlfriend who he strongly asserts has no effect on his relationship with his wife and kids. For those who are less computer savvy but still want to make a buck or live out a dark fantasy, the world’s oldest profession, prostitution, is a viable online employment option. Industries such as strip clubs, dominatrix dens, brothels and sex clubs are thriving in Second Life. In a 2008 BBC documentary on Second Life, it was revealed that thousands of average women are making between 2000 and 3000 Linden dollars per session, approximately ten to fifteen American dollars, working as strippers, hookers, and dominatrix. The people making money through these Internet professions may surprise you and its impossible to know if it’s a stay at home mom, college student, or middle-aged man acting out a gender-bending fantasy, behind the avatar dressed as a sexy dominatrix in fishnets. In an online Information Weekly interview, these cybersex workers revealed that although the extra cash was bonus for their online sexcapades, their main motivation was to experiment with kinky sex they were too afraid to act upon in real life or that may be physically impossible in real life. In the interview, a suburban housewife with one child, works as a dominatrix and claims she gets to act out her bisexual fantasies through her job on Second Life and finds pleasure through the sadism and bondage she inflicts on her clients. Another women, a web designer from LA, professed her love for exotic sex with alien avatars and futuristic cyborgs, fantasies impossible to fulfill offline. Surprisingly, these women are not alone in their desire to act out their fantasies through their avatars and working as an escort in a virtual brothel has become a safe way to push the boundaries and spice up one’s sex life.

Along with a safe way to exercise illicit fantasies, sex-play on Second Life may also positively effect dating in real life. Not only have many shy Internet users met future partners through Second Life and established real life relationships after dating through their avatars, recent experiments at Stanford University suggest that romantic and sexual activity on second life may increase real life dating confidence. Studies found that as little as 90 seconds spent chatting it up with avatars is enough to elicit behavioral changes offline. In fact, in one study when participants were assigned an attractive avatar they were more likely to be outgoing and confident in both online and offline interpersonal interactions and also thought they had a shot at dating more attractive people in real life. It seems that an active online social life can help sexual wallflowers

everywhere because they begin to perceive themselves in a way congruent with their online selves. So, if you’re to afraid to approach that hottie in real life, make an avatar that’s a sexy, confident player and you might become one in real life! In addition to all this erotic, but generally harmless, sexual behaviour happening on Second Life, as with most websites allowing for complete sexual freedom, a more seedy side to this cybersex haven exists. One of the most nausea-inducing activities that occur in Second Life is what residents call "age play", where virtual acts of pedophilia are imagined and reenacted through avatars. Britain’s Sky News uncovered a playground behind a public bowling ally, deemed “Wonderland” where virtual children of all ages offer sexual acts including torture for Linden dollars. Although Linden labs maintains no real child pornography is occurring on Second Life, Wonderland was removed by the website following the Sky News report. Even more disturbingly, often incest fantasies are combined with age play and rape sequences are created with avatars resembling children as young as toddlers. Although no children are actually engaging in these acts and it’s obviously an adult behind the avatar of an 8 year old school girl, Internet locations like Wonderland have quickly became a gathering ground for pedophiles and sex offenders to share secrets and feed their paraphilias. Although some may advocate free speech on the Internet and claim that Second Life is an outlet to exercise pedophilic desires without harming children, I strongly disagree. It’s not hard to imagine how simulated sex with children can lead to sexual abuse against children in real life. Another questionable aspect of Second Life is its ability to destroy real life relationships and families through online adultery. Virtual cheating is extremely common and many Second Lifers are leaving their real life partners for their Second Life ones. The BBC documentary, Wonderland – Virtual Relationships and Cyberspace Love, showcases one cyber-cheater, an American wife and mother of four young children, who is engaging in a virtual affair with her British Second Life boyfriend. In the documentary she claims she is innocent of adultery and argues that online sexual relationships do not constitute cheating because there is no physical contact. However, it is clear that real emotional bonds are formed between romantic partners in Second Life and it is obvious that many offline relationships are ending because of their online counterpart. Over the course of the documentary, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth as I witnessed an unhappy wife and mother spending up to 18 hours a day interacting with her Second Life lover, whom she claims to love, and ignoring her husband and children. In an ironic twist she flies to England to meet her virtual boyfriend, she returns home disappointed when a real life sexual attraction fails to materialize. I suspect that this lack of offline physical chemistry between Second Life partners is rather common since it is impossible to know the real face behind that devastatingly attractive avatar. After learning about all the kinky behavior on Second Life, I’ve decided that although it may be an exciting and STD-free way to enhance ones sex life, experiment with illicit fantasies and meet some hot avatar lovers, I definitely won’t be paying for some avatar breasts anytime soon. So although it may be a drag to wash my hair and trek out into the real world to meet love interests, I think for me Second Life would be second choice to the thrill of that real first kiss. Interestingly, my foray into Second Life inspired me to head to Beach Slam on Monday night. Maybe a second year will buy me a drink, and if not at least I’ll get to enjoy some Bubba’s poutine on the way home.



The Big TwitDiesel On the cutting edge of professional sports Michael Woods

For aficionados of the English language, following Shaquille O’Neal on Twitter is akin to watching a grammatical train wreck. Indeed, the man is “very quotatious,” as his Twitter bio humbly points out. But the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s syntax is cringe-inducing and his spelling is worse. His profile is replete with “yo momma” jokes and he often quotes himself in ways that are—I’m guessing—supposed to be deep and thought-provoking. What does “Treat people as u expect them to be, not as they are” even mean? I don’t know either. This all makes it easy to write Shaq off as a big, dumb basketball player—a mistake some of his 1.5 million-plus Twitter followers undoubtedly make. But the 7’1” star isn’t dumb. The self-proclaimed “Big Aristotle” may be prone to bouts of silliness, but he appears to understand the nature of sports journalism more than a lot of people in the industry. Consider what O’Neal tweeted shortly after his trade to Cleveland from Phoenix when his Twitter mini-feud with Dwight Howard caused a bit of a media kerfuffle. “I'm da reporter now,” he wrote in response. In those four words, O’Neal describes the direction the way fans consume sports is headed. Sports, for whatever reason, have historically been opposed to technological change. FOX’s “glowing puck” was universally condemned among hockey purists when they introduced it to their National Hockey League coverage in the mid-1990s, even though seven in 10 new hockey fans said they approved of the change. Puck visibility remains one of the NHL’s obstacles to attracting new fans. It took tennis and baseball years longer than it should have to introduce instant replay to competition. The NFL were trailblazers of instant replay—it’s no coincidence their television and sponsorship deals are more lucrative than the rest of the big four. Eyebrows were raised when NBA coaches started wearing microphones during games and NHL coaches started conducting interviews behind the bench during commercial breaks. But in reality, these broadcasting innovations were brought in too late and occur too infrequently. As the Web 2.0 era changes the way fans consume information, sports are once again falling behind. Sports coverage has been more than game summaries and results for a long time. More than ever, it’s about access. The best way to satisfy both the hardcore fan and lure the casual onlooker is to provide as much access as possible. Rabid sports fans want to devour as much about their favourite teams as they can, while casual fans are more often pulled in by human-interest stories about athletes than they are by the X’s and O’s of gameplay. Access attracts attention, which attracts fans who help bring dollars in. It would seem like a no-brainer, and Twitter provides access in the purest sense of the word. NBA forward Charlie Villanueva understands this equation as much as O’Neal does. At halftime of a March 15 game with the Milwaukee Bucks against Boston, Villanueva updated his fans in a way no amount of television coverage ever could—he tweeted.


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"In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We're playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up,” he wrote. Villanueva did indeed step up in the second-half, finishing with a team-high 19 points and helping the Bucks beat the Celtics 86-77. Head coach Scott Skiles scolded him the next day, though, saying Villanueva gave the impression he wasn’t focused on the task at hand. Villanueva is part of a new generation of players who understand that social networking sites—especially Twitter—lead to a previously unheard-of level of fan involvement in professional sports. By shutting him and other players up during games instead of harnessing a new medium for fans, the NBA missed a great opportunity to provide access. Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors is another athlete who understands the importance of social networking as a vehicle for fan consumption. He’s been posting hilarious videos on YouTube for the last two years, and his recent race with Villanueva to 50,000 followers on Twitter garnered a decent amount of online attention. I was discussing basketball with a friend—a relative sports neophyte. When Bosh came up in conversation, my friend’s immediate reaction wasn’t to Bosh’s Olympic gold medal or all-star appearances. Instead, my friend said: “He’s the one with the funny YouTube videos, right?” It’s no wonder Bosh signed a DVD deal with Warner Bros. this summer. He’s also the first professional athlete in the world to have his own iPhone application. Some people are catching on to this new wave. The recently-launched website Jockipedia unites thousands of links to athletes’ social networking sites, including Twitter, MySpace and Flickr. Broadcasters are catching on, too. When the NHL’s free agency period started in July, TSN Insider Darren Dreger’s recently-created Twitter account became the place to be for news. By the time stories reached newspaper websites 10 to 15 minutes after Dreger tweeted about them, they were old news. North America’s professional sports leagues could do more than allowing their players to tweet during intermissions. The sports world is a locker room-based culture. Thirty years ago, fans weren’t interested in interacting with their favourite athletes in an up-to-the-minute fashion. They were happy to watch their games on television and be on their way. That era is over. More than ever, sports coverage is about personalities. The mediums in which people consume information are multiplying rapidly. Professional sports leagues are constantly looking to market their young stars. Integrating Twitter and other mediums into the way they operate is the logical way to do so¬—stifling them is not. There’s a reason why O’Neal, past his prime at age 37, is more popular than ever. Twitter’s incredible capacity for sharing information has been harnessed by politicians and was on display in the aftermath of Iran’s stolen election. It’s only a matter of time before the sports world catches on.

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opic culture & society 43

Certainly not with that attitude The trouble afflicting our future leaders Matthew Lombardi We live in a society where an interracial statesman who spent part of his childhood on food stamps is now the leader of the free world. Great things, unlikely feats, are within reach. And yet, as I survey a gorgeous campus rich in history that I have come to call home over the past three years, I just don’t sense the attitudes that inspire the sort of optimism our world craves. Lately, I have found myself lamenting the fact that George Bernard Shaw was right- youth really is wasted on the young. And I fully concede my own guilt in this respect. We as students are a culture obsessed with overly credentialized (yes, I just invented a word) forms of achievement. But this sort of thinking-in-a-box emphasis is precisely the disease that keeps us from both pursuing our dreams, and solving some of the great challenges facing our university, our community, our country, and our planet. The academy is supposed to be, in a normative sense, a place where one can pursue his or her passions and help change the world. But we are too preoccupied with demand for grades and certifications, starting salaries and starter homes, and the lust for conventional wisdom. We forget too easily that some of history’s greatest innovators, from Copernicus to Bill Gates, forged prosperous careers, and made the world better, by shirking conventional wisdom and credentials. Albert Einstein once said that we cannot solve problems using the same kind of thinking that created them. In that spirit, we need to recognize that Queen’s is a place where we as students should dare to fail. John F. Kennedy, while still a Senator, gave a speech at the University of New Hampshire in March of 1960, in which he reminded the young students, “In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters- one representing danger, and one representing opportunity”. Our world is certainly in great peril. Climate change, genocide, nuclear proliferation, war- pick your poison. Universities are supposed to be places that change the world, not places that perpetuate the same old models of thinking- the ones that created the problems in the first place- for the purposes of getting a job. We all, as students, must step back and realize that we are here to learn, and that the formal education portion is just one aspect of that never-ending journey. A change in attitude is exactly what Dr. Einstein ordered. But I am not trying to provoke you into twisting my words into a hailstorm of fury directed against Goodes Hall, and the ingrained formalities and sometimes-stuffy thinking that emanates from the MBA-types. These institutions are as necessary to preserve human progress as creative thinkers are to furthering it. Chinese philosophy would call that respecting the balance- the yin and the yang- of liberal and conservative attitudes. Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is the speaker in a very popular online lecture that discusses overcoming one’s own moral self-righteousness, and how the idea of humility is the key to healthy decision-making. Because even more dangerous than the suffocation of innovative thinkers by over credentialized learning is the notion of moral superiority that too-often plagues binary ideological debate. Self-described liberals and conservatives must cast off the feelings of moral superiority that they harbour over one another, and instead start engaging with each other based on the quality of their ideas while respecting the strength of each others convictions, rather than belittling those who disagree. We need to embrace the synergy of yin and yang. James Scheckington, the American humanist, summarized the mutual respect necessary for making the world a better place when he said, “There are many ways to work for change. Some people write. Some paint. Some make movies. Some run for office. Some sing. Some dance. Some march. Some raise children”. Philosophers with a roadmap for change range from Mahatma Gandhi, who told us to be the change we wish to see in the world, to the rap poet Biggie Smalls, who reminded us that we can’t change the world until we change ourselves. So if we are to embody the change our world needs, the reevaluation of our educational priorities, and the embracing of innovation, if we are to engage in the sort of trailblazing that has in the past been responsible for inventionsometimes by accident- of amazing tools such as the internet, insulin, and microwave oven technology, then we must start by recognizing our responsibility. We have a duty to use our privileged places of study at this university for the benefit of the world at large, and that is for reasons much more sacrosanct than because we are partly publicly funded. A university isn’t just a place that can change the world; it is a place that has a responsibility to do so through innovation. Innovation requires risk taking, and that implies necessary failures. Failure is good, as long as it doesn’t shatter your self-confidence. Failure provides things that success doesn’t, such as humility, motivation, and tough lessons. You will never be younger than you are today- in all likelihood, you don’t yet have kids, a family, and a mortgage to deal with. You have more energy and freedom now than you ever will. So take advantage, and become the embodiment of the spirit of discovery that this university deserves. “If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” Einstein said that, too.



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A Thought Experiment Justin Steinburg

Professor Yet another letter from me! I believe by now you know that I am a student in the BFA program, and I am interested intensely by conceptual ideas, semiotics, language and the ideas of conceptual art. Over the course of this semester I have been in third year print. I am very interested in print, for the reasons of which print were traditionally used for, advertising, religious texts, reproduction, money etc. I unfortunately was not able to learn how to use the type press. If I were able to do this, I was wanting to create this piece of art that described a redefining of the 1st word (letter) that I found in a common dictionary. The first word/letter found in the dictionary that I picked up was in fact, “A”. The letter “A” is defined as : the first letter of the alphabet. Being interested in the conceptual nature of ideas regarding the sign, signifier and signified- and conceptual art itself, I produced this document (soon to be an artwork) regarding the definition of the Letter “A”. By looking through the work, hopefully you can understand my process. It works upon the conceptual idea of form through repetition. Although not a physical process much like those of the artists that I discussed in my presentation, it is a mindless task redefining the traditional definition of the letter “A”. As a student in the BFA program, I was very interested in Conceptualism/ Neo-Conceptualism and have always been interested in the way it is seen by the viewer. Although there are movements today in Quebec of re-emergence of minimalism and conceptualism, I feel drawn to the aesthetic of simple and minimalist works, which a large emphasis on the conceptual nature of the works. I am still recovering from show- the subject of my first assignment, but I thought it would be interesting to think with a conceptual thinking cap on, and produce my own work to assist in my own understanding of the work. Why am I showing you this, I am still unsure! Have a happy holiday. Justin Steinburg



A the first letter of the alphabet THE denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge DENOTE be a sign of; indicate BE forming verbs FORMING the visible shape or configuration of something. THE denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge ONE Cardinal number CARDINAL NUMBER A leading dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church A the first letter of the alphabet FIRST Ordinal Number ORDINAL A number defining a thing’s position in a series, such as “first”, “second” or “third”. A the first letter of the alphabet LETTER a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet A the first letter of the alphabet OF expressing the relationship between a part and a whole EXPRESSING convey (a thought or feeling) in words or by gestures and conduct CONVEY transport or carry to a place TRANSPORT take or carry (people or goods) from one place to another by means of a vehicle, aircraft, or ship TAKE lay hold of (something) with one's hands; reach for and hold LAY put down esp. gently or carefully PUT move to or place in a particular position

MOVE go in a specified direction or manner; change position

MOVE go in a specified direction or manner; change position

EXPRESSING convey (a thought or feeling) in words or by gestures and conduct

GO move from one place or point to another;

IN expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded



A the first letter of the alphabet THE denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge OR used to link alternatives USE take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result; employ TAKE lay hold of (something) with one's hands; reach for and hold HOLD grasp, carry, or support with one's arms or hands GRASP seize and hold firmly SEIZE take hold of suddenly and forcibly TAKE lay hold of (something) with one's hands; reach for and hold

OF expressing the relationship between a part and a whole

THE denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge OR used to link alternatives TO expressing motion in the direction of (a particular location) EXPRESSING convey (a thought or feeling) in words or by gestures and conduct THOUGHT have a particular opinion, belief, or idea about someone or something HAVE possess, own, or hold POSSESS have as belonging to one; own HAVE possess, own, or hold OWN used with a possessive to emphasize that someone or something belongs or relates to the person mentioned

USED take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result; employ TAKE lay hold of (something) with one's hands; reach for and hold SOMETHING a thing that is unspecified or unknown

A the first letter of the alphabet ALPHABET a set of letters or symbols in a fixed order, used to represent the basic sounds of a language; in particular, the set of letters from A to Z. A 1 |Ä | (also a) noun ( pl. As or A's ) 1 A THE DENOTE BE FORMING THE ONE CARDINAL NUMBER A FIRST ORDINAL A LETTER A OF A OF EXPRESSING CONVEY TRANSPORT TAKE LAY PUT MOVE GO MOVE IN EXPRESSING A THE OR USED TAKE HOLD GRASP SIEZE TAKE OF THE OR TO EXPRESSING THOUGHT HAVE POSSESS HAVE OWN USED TAKE SOMETHING A ALPHABET

what do you think?



culture & society

Our New Intuitions Gareth Chantler Today’s many ideological fractures notwithstanding, there are two prominent inclinations regarding the progress of the human mind and its relation to that of civilization. Taking the cue from our society’s considerable Enlightenment heritage, some hold that man is perfectible, through the contemplation of reason, and that this pursuit of perfection will transform society. The popular rejoinder is that man is tragically flawed – alleged by those who accept either the religious, or similarly posited, secular, version of the fall. New York Times writer Christopher Hedges, for example, derides belief in “moral advancement,” as he terms it, on the basis of history. To him, the tyrannies of the twentieth century are morally commensurate to those of the first. “Human history is steeped in blood,” he reminds us. But another type of thinker, distinct from the religious Augustinians or secular Rousseaus, advances this ‘flawed man’ thesis: various evolutionists. They (correctly) point out that man’s genetic code has not advanced in any meaningful way for a considerable length of time. Before the advent of fire even – since after all, evolution is an exercise in tedium. That our ingenuity has led to technological and material flourishing does not imply our nature ever changed, and therefore (they will say), we are no different from prehistoric man. “Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains”: these ‘evolutionists’ agree with Rousseau—that is to say, in order to control our barbaric hunter-gatherer genetic design, society must incentivize us to be civil. For other believers in our fallibility, the good book provides such incentives to us sinners. There is truth and inaccuracy in both positions. Our natures are not (yet) malleable, but crucially, they already contain many devices with which to adapt to our new, non-hunter-gatherer surroundings. To be sure, man cannot be perfected through rational contemplation, but he can be improved. It is in our nature to have adaptable neural networks, as we are increasingly finding out, and it is in our nature to be able to train and retrain them to suit our environment. We aren’t simply troglodytes forced into suits by sticks and carrots – the lore of the fall is just a sort of cynical romanticism. Even though we evolved specifically to survive a hunter-gatherer, nomadic tribal lifestyle our brains have adapted to be adaptable. Moving forward, one of our focuses, not directly related to our technological gizmos, should be the retraining of our intuition that our brain allows, in step with the conceptual progress we have made over time. Concepts we should try to grasp intuitively include evolutionary theory, probability, linear vs. non-linear systems, correlation/causation, and the difference between intention and outcome in public policy. The list could go on quite long, so let us peruse just a few. There is an interesting book by a professor Robert Jervis called System Effects whose introduction begins: On the centennial of the publication of The Origin of Species, H. J. Muller wrote an article entitled “One Hundred Years Without Darwinism Are Enough.” His point was that although the basic ideas of evolution were well known, people often thought in nonevolutionary terms, a defect he hoped to correct. My aim is parallel. Although we all know that social life and politics constitute systems and that many outcomes are the unintended consequences of complex interactions, the basic ideas of systems do not come readily to mind and so often are ignored.


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Jervis points out that systems often have emergent properties: “The whole might be symmetric in spite of its parts being asymmetric, a whole might be unstable in spite of its parts being stable in themselves.” Changes to a system will often have unintended (and undesirable) consequences: “It seems obvious that if tankers had double hulls, there would be fewer oil spills...But in a system, everything else will not remain constant. The shipping companies, forced to purchase more expensive tankers, might cut expenditures on other safety measures.” And so on. Prohibitions on alcohol usually fail to decrease alcohol consumption and have further deleterious effects. Some did not see it that way, of course, and some still do not. Our intuition so often betrays us. We are naturally surprised that coincidences happen. Yet, they are supposed to, and in fact, with the exact frequency with which they do occur. When we observe certain coincidences, we disproportionately weight their significance and from that, draw false inferences. It is no wonder people believe in karma, for example. They recall the times they neglected someone and subsequently fell prey to some circumstance, yet don’t weigh this against all the banal or wonderful events of their life that occurred after other acts of bad karma. This phenomenon takes places without someone even being introduced to the notion of karma! Once the idea is implanted, a person is more likely to look for confirmation of it. The fact of the matter is that belief in karma has no empirical or rational basis – no non-superstitious basis whatsoever – and that its popularity is largely based on a twofold mistake. First, people confuse the benefits of being optimistic with the effects of good karma. Second, our brains are wired to seek patterns, and naturally make note of noteworthy occurrences, while discarding many bland, ordinary ones. What better combination to elicit karmic belief? Today we understand probability and statistics – and the grafting of their sensibilities over our intuition happily invalidates notions like karma, but more generally, inferences made on the foundation of inevitable (however rare) coincidences. To some, a world with karma would be a nice place to live. But describing the world as it is and how we would like it to be are two different things, and that is also something people struggle to separate in their own intuitions. One set of our intuitions we should be particularly sceptical towards is our moral intuitions. In fact, we should train ourselves to be intuitively sceptical of all our intuitions. Moral intuitions provide a strong case study of why, since very often, when confronted with something unseemly, we will fall for the ‘ick’ factor. From some unknown and undoubtedly complex method of chemical secretion in our brains, we conclude that some activity is morally reprehensible and should be punished or outlawed. Certainly, things like bestiality are easy examples. However, abortion is quite a salient one. Try it now: if you secreted that familiar ‘ick’ upon mention of the abomination that is abortion, pause to entreat a distrust of that reaction, so we can move onto measured analysis of the reaction’s accuracy and desirability. When the state prohibits abortion, abortions occur anyways, and often in seedy and dangerous conditions for the mother-not-to-be. In the case of legality, however, mothers-not-to-be will not risk exploitation and medical complication in nearly the magnitude they would under the alternative. Put perversely, abortion prohibitions don’t save foetuses—they just kill women. But that’s why economists make use of the term ‘perverse incentives.’ Whatever level of squeamishness abortion engenders in you, women will do it whether it is legal or not. So, unless we want to institute some Handmaid’s Tale-esque totalitarian society, whereby all births are controlled by armed and trustworthy state goons, we really shouldn’t be concerned with how it makes us feel whatsoever – we should care about the public policy that yields the best results for society. It is the difference between believing in good and evil and considering what is desirable versus undesirable. An important point is that the outcome of a policy is not correlated by necessity, in any way, with the intention of that policy. Lawmakers and politicians are quite hit and miss when it comes to aligning intentions and outcomes. It is almost as if the haphazard successes that do result are accidental and that sometimes policymaking itself, through its interference, is detrimental. The intention of prohibiting abortion is, without doubt, a caring and altruistic one. It just doesn’t have anything to do with reality. This, of course, ties in with describing the world as we find it and describing how we wish it would be. It simply makes no sense to have policy based on ethical values or virtues that ignore empirical results or rational expectations. Unduly cynical, you may say. Idealists call realists cynics, and realists call idealists idealists – but only one group pitches accurately. Setting up a system whereby everyone acts self-interestedly may or may not have the best benefits for everyone; charitable decisions may sometimes be the most harmful course of action, depending on conditions. Let me suggest we keep an open mind to what those conditions might be. So many things are counterintuitive, but luckily, with habit, our intuitions can be retrained. “Education” is simply not enough, however. Just like “exercise” is not enough to be a successful athlete. Thoughtful training is more important than, say, the photographic recall of definitions. Let me suggest we make use of our adaptive brain, by understanding the implications of our evolutionary nature, by understanding the expectations of probability, by understanding the difference between the world we wish we found ourselves in and the world we observe, between the policies of our heart and the policies that work. Scepticism of our gut instinct, rational reactions to coincidences, mindfulness of the distinction between intention and outcome: these, amongst others, should be our new intuitions. As we go forward, let’s make a longer list. We have the concepts available and flexible enough neurons for the task. We may not reach the perfection thought possible during the Enlightenment, but we certainly could (and should) have a higher opinion of ourselves than those who think we shouldn’t have eaten the metaphorical, or literal, apple. The goal for such a level-headed society isn’t perfection anyways, just a concerted optimization of progress.


opic global issues 51

Culturally Out but In the Political Closet President Obama, the United States and the Issue of Same Sex Marriage Gillian Magnusson

The issue of same sex marriage in the United States has polarized social and political opinion to the extent that they are no longer cohesive. Gay marriage has perhaps exposed, more than any other issue, the schizophrenic moral and political views of the United States as a whole. The recent media attention concerning Proposition 8 in California which banned gay marriage exemplifies the vast differences in sentiment. For young Canadians, and furthermore Canadians in the liberal and sometimes atheistic bubble of post-secondary education, it can be difficult to see the controversy. The issue of gay marriage in the United States is one which illustrates the ramifications of culture evolving past the law and more importantly exceeding the tolerance of political interests. With President Obama’s election to the White House many breathed a sigh of relief, yet the “yes we can” mantra has not extended itself to gay rights. Mr. Obama made several campaign promises concerning the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996 and excludes gay couples from receiving any federal benefits. The President also promised to appeal the military policy of “don’t ask don’t tell” which prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the military. In light of Obama’s lack of reaction to either issue should we consider him yet another false prophet of change or simply a pragmatist? By dissecting the issue of same sex marriage one can hope to find the answer and perhaps discover where the resolution of this issue will reflect upon us and where it will lead us as a generation. From the perspective of a country which has granted same-sex couples the right to marry to no apparent societal detriment it can be difficult to see why anyone would have an issue with it. In the interests of laying one’s biases on the table: to me, love is love regardless of anatomy, and love is the major (if only) requirement of marriage. Yet there is a legitimate case to be made for not only religion but conservative view points which prohibit the acceptance of same sex marriage as a viable option. In order to understand these views we must deconstruct them. As author David Cole has noted in his article “The Same-Sex Future”, in the recent past “same sex marriage was an oxymoron, as some proponents have put it, a ‘moral impossibility.’” The definition of marriage and the social importance of marriage to heterosexuals appear to be at the crux of the issue. As Patricia A. Gozemba and Karen Kahn point out in the book Courting Equality, “it is through marriage and family that we establish our most intimate relationships, pass on values and reproduce our social order.” The question then becomes whose values and what kind of social order? Here is where the two sides of the issue differ dramatically. Daniel Cere argues for the preservation of the heteronormative version of society in the article “War of the Ring.” He would have us believe that “if same sex couples get legally married, the institution of marriage will change and since marriage is one of the institutions that support heterosexuality and heterosexual identities heterosexuality and heterosexuals with change as well.” Never has heterosexuality appeared more fragile than in the face of the possibility of same sex marriage. Where I

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differ with Cere is that I believe that heterosexual identity could stand a little change, and furthermore I do not see heterosexuality as a fixed entity in the first place. I understand the fear of change and it is true that marriage does underpin many social values. Yet one cannot ignore that marriage is not and has never been an institution cast in stone. It has been augmented through the introduction of divorce and even made into entertainment in the mainstream media. Therefore, if marriage has been in a state of evolution, and treated slightly less than sacrosanct what is the harm in expanding its parameters even further? Why heterosexuals should have an exclusive claim on an institution which could help to form the basis of a more inclusive and equal society I am not sure. When one examines the issue of same sex marriage rationally it appears to be simply an issue of civil rights. Ben Atherton-Zeman, quoted in Courting Equality is a heterosexual advocate for same sex marriage and perhaps puts it best when he says, “don’t get me wrong, I love my marriage, but it feels like I drank from a white’s only fountain.” If one can divorce religion from the concept of marriage there is nothing much left but a civil rights issue. Legally, this has been upheld by the 2003 Goodridge decision in Massachusetts which according to Gozemba and Kahn “recognized individual rights to privacy in intimate relations and acknowledged that choosing one’s marriage partner is an essential part of exercising ones freedoms as a human being.” Those in opposition to same sex marriage would argue that civil unions, which would theoretically provide the benefits without the title of marriage, would be a middling solution. Yet as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has pointed out, “history… has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.” Different labels inevitably mean that inequality would be written into the paradigm and marriage would forever be held as above, or slightly more than civil unions. Civil unions may be a necessary stepping stone in the evolution of this issue, but they could be dangerous as they invite further codified discrimination into society on the basis of sexual orientation. In the interests of understanding the opposition, the two major objections to same sex marriage appear to be that it is against tradition and religious values. The argument for tradition, as is outlined by Linda Deutsch and Lisa Leff in the article “Gays Decry Obama’s Stand on Gay Marriage,” “a union between a man and a woman is the traditional and universally recognized version of marriage.” This logic is circular as something is right because it is tradition and it is tradition because it has always been done that way. As Andrew Sullivan, author of “State of the Union” has pragmatically pointed out, “[i]f marriage were the same today as it has been for 2000 years it would be possible to marry a twelve year old you had never met, to own your wife as property…or to imprison a person who married someone of a different race. And it would be impossible to get a divorce.” Societies constantly evolve and there is an argument to be made for the fact that social evolution is what keeps a civilization viable. Therefore, it seems strange to assert that change should be limited due to tradition, when tradition is not as stable as we believe it to be. The only tradition that humanity has, is one of constant change. The second aspect which argues for the limitation of marriage to the “traditional” union of a man and a woman is religion. The aspect of religion is far more difficult to disentangle and, in the United States, far more heated. In light of this I would like to note that I am not condemning religion as an institution, I am however questioning its validity when it impinges on the rights of individuals in what should be a secular society. In this case there appears to be a clash of rights, the rights of individuals to protect and practice their religion, and the rights of others to equality. Perhaps the greatest point of contention within the issue of gay marriage, religion represents the conflation of church and state in a very public, supposedly secular setting. Gozemba and Kahn state that those opposed “argue that same sex marriage will destroy a sacred religious institution…[yet] civil marriage is a secular institution through which the state grants multiple financial and social benefits to family units.” Even though almost “40% of marriages are preformed with out any religious ceremony” the institution still has strong religious ties. In a country where faith often governs not only social opinion but politics, it is difficult to make a case for secularism in an institution which literally straddles the church and the state. Yet one aspect that is not considered by those who would advocate against same sex marriage on the basis of religion is the question of who’s religion do we respect? As Cole points out, although “some religions hold that marriages must be limited to a union between a man and a woman, other religions such as Buddhism, Unitarianism and Reformed Judaism hold just as deeply that individuals should be free to marry those of their own sex.” So then, if we believe that people should have the freedom to practice their religion, and some of those religions dictate that same sex marriage is acceptable then are we not doubly impinging on their rights? How is it possible that a country can pick and choose which religion’s values it will honor? Whatever one’s opinion upon religion there is no doubt that where religion transects same sex marriage there is bound to be difficulty. University of Michigan law professor Douglas Laycock, author of “Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty,” sums up the situation when he states that “part of the reason the same sex marriage issue is so intractable is that it arises in the context our most fundamental and long lasting breach of separation of church and state…in marriage legal and religious institutions are thoroughly combined.” Until secularism is either upheld, or the conflation of interests is acknowledged and a solution proposed it is religious interests, especially in conservative America, that will provide the largest stumbling block to the success of the gay rights movement. When same sex marriage is considered simply as a civil rights issue there can be little dissent about its validity. Though religious elements complicate the issue there is still no doubt that same sex marriage should be legalized on the basis of providing equality for all.


global issues

When President Obama took office many were swept up in the rhetoric of change and the breath of fresh air which was his political optimism. Yet on the issue of gay rights Obama has not proven as progressive as his campaign promises made him out to be. Obama appears to have a contradictory view on same sex marriage which neither binds him to the issue as one of civil rights nor separates him from it on a moral basis. Though he is generally considered in favor of gay rights Obama has stated that he is not in favor of gay marriage for the two major reasons discussed by this article, tradition and religion. Obama is quoted in an article written by A. Serwer for the journal “The Atlantic” as stating “I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and woman.” Though Mr. Obama is definitely entitled to his opinion he must also represent the concerns of his constituents and Obama does have a large base of support in the gay community, however, due to the lack of progress on gay issues that tide may be turning. The question here is, has Obama let down his gay supporters, or is he simply being pragmatic considering there is a large portion of America which would still find the concept of gay marriage shocking? In the Los Angeles Times editorial “Obama’s Gay Rights Gap” it has been noted that “[e]ven during the campaign Obama sent ambiguous signals…he favored equal rights for gays, but not same sex marriage. Yet he didn’t support Proposition 8 which banned such marriages. Obama the candidate walked a fine line between appeasing the gay community and appeasing heartland America.” Yet now that Obama has won the race he no longer appears to be walking the line, but is allowing these issues to languish, along with the promises he made. As journalist Adam Nagourney of the New York Times has speculated in his article “Political Shifts on Gay Rights Lag Behind Culture,” “[t]he Obama White House in particular is reluctant to embrace gay rights issues now…because they do not want to provide social conservatives a rallying cry while the president is trying to assemble legislative coalition on health care and other initiatives.” So then is this a case where the President simply has bigger issues to deal with? Perhaps Obama is simply being pragmatic and waiting for a potential second term before he deals with the controversy of same sex marriage. The question is, is this acceptable? It is extremely unsettling when human rights become pieces on the political chess board, but perhaps this policy of incremental change is the only way to proceed. It is easy to be utterly pessimistic about the prospects of same sex marriage. As Nagourney notes “[t]he prospects that Congress will ever send [Obama] a bill overturning the Defense of Marriage Act…appear dim.” Furthermore, Cole has pointed out that “[n]o federal gay rights bill has ever passed Congress [and] discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not prohibited by federal law.” However there is hope for the future, and most of it has to do with age. An article in the New York Times recently published findings that a “news poll last spring found that 57% of people under 40 said they supported same sex marriage, compared with 31% of respondents over 40.” So it appears that as a generation we will literally have to wait for discrimination to die for gay people to achieve equal rights in the United States. In the wake of previous civil rights movements if the culmination of the gay rights movement were simply to wait discrimination out the victory would seem rather hollow. Perhaps this is a symptom of a generation exceedingly comfortable with apathy. It seems as if the days of radicalism are gone, and even a President shouting change from the rooftops can get stalled by the massive force of conservative American politics and pragmatic political decisions. It appears that with regards to the issue of same sex marriage, the United States is in the throws of a painful, social growth spurt. Unfortunately for those opposed society is evolving past “traditional” values and, unfortunately for those in favor, the law and politics are slow to catch up.



opic arts 55

Making the Case for Creativity in Hollywood? It’ll be a bit of a Stretch Joanna Adams

The other night, I felt particularly irked when I noticed the highest gaining item of the day during a quick check of my Hollywood Stock Exchange account. The Hollywood Stock Exchange, or HSX, is an online fantasy pool that charts the perceived potential success of both movies in production, and the celebrities who star in them, as individual stocks to be traded by the users. The movie stock in question represented Stretch Armstrong, based on the 1976 stuffed Kenner toy that could expand from 13 inches to 4 feet long; a toy which also enjoyed a rather futile revival by parent company Hasbro in the early 1990’s. Stretch Armstrong had been priced at $103 a share, meaning that the movie is expected to gross $103 million dollars in its domestic run. This was sparked by a confirmed release date of April 15th, 2011; and the attachment of a screenwriter, Steve Oedenkirk, who was responsible for the dreadful gems Evan Almighty and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, to the film. Moreover, Stretch Armstrong has also been deemed the benchmark for Hasbro’s six-film collaboration with Universal, a deal which also potentially features Russell Crowe as Rich Uncle Moneybags in Ridley Scott’s upcoming adaptation of Monopoly. Yes, that Monopoly. I wish I was kidding. All signs point to awful. What kind of a movie are we supposed to expect? Stretch Armstrong is a toy that does not have multi-generational appeal, and has no back story other than his ability to extend certain appendages. As seen in the movie Adaptation, if writer, and OSCAR winner, Charlie Kaufman couldn’t extrapolate from Susan Orlean’s bestselling book The Orchid Thief and create a story about the pursuit to find beauty in flowers, how can it be expected to have two-time Razzie winner Oedenkirk extrapolate a story about this one-dimensional character compelling enough to compete with the Fantastic Four’s Mr. Stretch or Marvel’s X-Men? As was seen with the unsuccessful releases of GI JOE and Land of the Lost this summer, even beloved pieces of nostalgic Americana do not translate well to the screen in a way that is entertaining or appealing. The problem here isn’t that Hasbro is risking their future collaborative cinematic endeavours with Universal on a niche franchise character that doesn’t have a back story or enough mainstream appeal in a supersaturated superhero market to succeed, but that such a collaboration of these beloved brands shouldn’t have been considered in the first place. If the financial success of a movie, or further, the perception of a movie’s financial grossing potential, is a barometer of our cultural consciousness, than this is a cause for concern.

This year, we witnessed the decline of excellence and expectation in entertainment when four of the five OSCAR nominated films did not gross as much combined as Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Undoubtedly, to a select few, the nebbish Kevin James is irresistible in uniform, but this is indicative of the problem here: that the state of film itself and the potential for artistic achievement is being stunted by studios who would rather slate a sequel or a one-dimensional adaptation as opposed to innovation and creativity. The price of this stock represents the death of originality in Hollywood due to the need to adapt anything that was once popular to create subpar, idiotic entertainment. As an audience, and more importantly, as an essential youth and student demographic of 18 – 26 year olds, it is time for us to demand quality cinematic entertainment. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a popcorn flick in the summer, but we as an audience need to reject these subpar cinematic adaptations about toys our parents didn’t even want to play with, and embrace those with a unique story, great comic timing or illustrious artistry; something along the lines of I Love You, Man or Public Enemies versus Pirates of the Caribbean 3. For instance, Slumdog Millionaire, last year’s Best Picture winner was slated to be a Direct to Video release in favour of a banal Warner Brothers release until its universal acclaim by the public at the Toronto Film Festival. It is up to us to dictate the market, and showcase the broadening of entertainment through innovation as opposed to mind-numbing monotony. The time has come to demand film studios, like Universal, choose to add films to their roster that challenge our intelligence and sense of humour as opposed to increasing our level of inanity. As an aside, not only did I not purchase stock of Stretch Armstrong in protest, but others evidently chimed in as well, and the stock decreased, proving that the power to change the direction of what we, and film studios deem as entertainment, is in our hands.

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The Quagmire of Canadian Politics: How lack of inspiration, logic, and passion is killing political engagement in Canada Jason Collins

By almost all accounts, Canada is one of the best countries in the world to be a part of. We need look no further than global rankings of standards of living, the proclamations of our national media, the perpetuation of a national mythology, or the conversations had everyday in classrooms, coffee shops, churches, or neighbourhoods across the country. More evidence of the fact is found in our beautiful landscape, our plentiful resources, a consistently strong economy and successful businesses (yes…even amid a global recession), or the overwhelming amount of freedom and opportunity available to nearly every citizen of this land. However a quick glance at our nation’s politics tells a different story. We are a country beset by political frustration, partisan bickering, bureaucratic delay, and increasingly a disengagement of the public from the process that defines their government. The most recent Canadian federal election in 2008 witnessed the worst voter turnout in the country’s history, with a mere 59% of the eligible voting population making the trip to the polls, a truly dismal result for a so-called vibrant and successful democracy. “Well that’s fine” some might say, after all we’re no Honduras coping with a military coup or a China, Iran, or North Korea battling an oppressive one-party rule. We’ve got our freedoms and we go about our daily lives in peace so who cares if some disaffected youth aren’t voting or if the busy middle class family can’t make it to the polls? The truth comes down to numbers. When less than 60% of a country votes, only a fraction is left to elect its leaders. This means that in Canada’s latest election, where 59% of people turned out to vote and where the victorious Conservatives claimed just under 38% of that vote (, a mere 22% of the population is left to elect the governing party to power. As any good politics student knows or any sensible citizen should be able to discern, a

country teetering on a 50% threshold of civic engagement where just over 20% choose the ruling party, is hardly a democracy at all. Worse still, these numbers fail to illustrate a deeper political malaise in this country that is felt by much of the population, including those who did exercise their right to vote. With these failing signs of our very recent political past and with little optimism for the future, one has to ask the question: why is Canada stuck in a political quagmire? One could point to our political education or upbringing, as a quick survey of many young people today on the topic of politics draws similar responses of “I don’t care” or “politics doesn’t matter to me”. Surely this is worrying. To believe that everything from wages (and taxes on it) to the right to choose, or more importantly for students the access to and cost of post-secondary education “doesn’t matter” or isn’t worth caring about must be folly. However the problem goes deeper as youth have often held a similar disdain for political engagement and still make up only a minority of the voting-age population. When over 40% of eligible voters from all ages, regions, creeds, colours, and political dispositions opt to stay home on election day something is seriously wrong with our system. And that’s the clincher, the system has the symptoms of decay leaving an outdated voting model, rigid partisanship, and uninspiring political leadership dooming the current, if not the next generation of would be responsible citizens. Currently, and at least as far back as this young 20-something student can remember, the country has lacked inspiring political leaders; you know, those passionate speakers who make you want to jump out of your seat and into a rally or, grandparents-forbid, a voting booth to make your voice heard. In fact the leadership approval rates seem so low, Canadians can hardly decide who’s the worst let alone who might be



best. We’re left to choose between the stone-faced Prime Minister Harper, the over-active Layton, the resigned Duceppe, the bumbling Dion and more recently the non-committal Ignatieff. Our party leaders should take a glance south of the border where the still newly anointed Obama was able to spur a spike in votes, especially among the traditionally disenfranchised youth, African-American and Hispanic-American voting blocs. A leader who dared even Republicans to stand at attention to hear him speak. A leader with vision, passion, and at least a demeanor that leads people to believe he is genuine. Canadian politicians would do well to take notes out of Obama’s book and look beyond partisan lines to build consensus instead of division, inspiration instead of frustration, and engagement (with America’s highest voter turnout in over 30 years) rather than apathy (with Canada’s lowest voter turnout on record). Canadians are tired of the “politics as usual”, where day after day opposing parties rise in Question Period to denounce the ‘enemy’ for this or that, equating their rivals to dictators or dawdlers, intolerants or incompetents. It is time to wake the entrenched members of the House of Commons to the fact that they aren’t fighting a war, they are governing a country: a prestigious privilege that WE, the voters, gave them. They owe us more than to act like spoiled children, heckling across the hall just to hear the sound of their own applause. Whatever happened to the idea of cooperation and compromise, where elected officials work together to pursue the public interest? Sure they don’t have to agree all the time and loyalty to their political ideologies is to be expected, but when partisanship hinders our democracy rather than advances the needs of the citizens, something has got to give. The citizens of this great land deserve better and it is time we demanded it. So what if we don’t make a change? Sure the country keeps humming along as usual and the wheels won’t fall off but the challenge facing Canada as we prepare to enter the second decade of the 21st century is to re-engage the population in the nation’s politics and revive our democracy. American bureaucrat John Gardner said it best, that “the citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable, and keep them honest. No one else can.” Perhaps it is time we took up that challenge.

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Help, I’m Telling Strangers My Secrets Celine Song LaWe complain about things like Facebook and Twitter impinging on our privacy, but I think that’s absurd because we are the ones providing details about our lives (including our relationship status, down to the minute of hook-up and break-up) on the web and showing them off to friends and “friends” and strangers. If we don’t want someone to come inside our house, we can lock the door. Likewise, if we don’t want the information that we are foot fetishists to be known and used against us, we can make a conscious decision to not put it on our profiles. It’s as simple as that, especially since the Great and Almighty Corporation of Facebook can’t jump out of our screens and learn what we did last weekend with a bong and eight shots of tequila, so long as we don’t tell them. On the other hand, any trespasser or hooligan can break through our windows and get inside our homes, so really they aren’t that bad in comparison. We are the exhibitors of our personal information, the ones typing it all up. We are the invaders of our own privacy. We can’t pretend not to know this because it’s so obvious. I think we feel inclined to blame Facebook for everything, because of the cognitive dissonance (psychological tension caused by one’s own contradicting attitude and behaviour) that occurs when we use tools like Facebook or Twitter. We are torn between our powerful exhibitionistic urges and our ideological appreciation of privacy — and this confuses and makes us feel uncomfortable. Take me, for example. If someone asked me, “do you value your privacy?” I’d say I do, absolutely. The public has no business in what I am doing with myself and I wholeheartedly believe that. But I am obviously an exhibitionist. I am easily tempted to reveal intimate facts about myself to the public. That’s why I blog it, Twitter it, Facebook it, and Tumblr it. I discuss, elaborate, analyze, narrate, and illustrate how my day went, all in the extreme public sphere of the Internet. Even offline, I make friends and tell them more than I should. I beg them to be involved in my private life. In fact, upon further introspection, my exhibitionism seems to run even deeper. Although in my sane mind I think stalking is incredibly creepy, I find with a shudder that secretly and unconsciously I want people to be interested in me enough to stalk me. I want people

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culture &opic society 61

e to care about the mundane things I do and monitor my every move. I want strangers to recognize me and have forum discussions about my thoughts, beliefs, and actions. It sometimes gives me exquisite chills to receive comments on my blog entry or a status update on one of my many social networking sites. When that happens, I cannot believe how much of a freak and hypocrite I am. For someone who says she values her privacy, I sure spend a lot of my time exposing myself. I whine about people disrespecting my personal space, but I am the one that doesn’t give a damn about it, telling everyone about her darkest secrets and oral hygiene. And it really makes me want to blame Facebook and Twitter and blog and Tumblr (that I signed up for out of my own free will) that make it that easy for me to do so. I want to say, “damn you, Internet! You are making me invade my privacy in a really user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way!” Maybe our culture’s obsession with fame has turned me into this off-putting attention whore. Damn you, western civilization! But of course I don’t think it is a simple as that. We can’t just blame the generalized “our culture” and become free of personal blame for being what we are. Instead, I think we should gather the courage to ask the question: Why do we come up with increasingly better ways to expose ourselves (i.e. Facebook, then Twitter) all the while complaining about our personal space being spat on? Why do we want everyone to know that our teeth hurt today and that we should really go see a dentist? I want to argue here that it is because our entire worldview is built around the idea that openness and communication is awesome, that open door policies are a good and healthy thing (even if it opens doors to the riff-raffs too), that knowing is the first step to understanding and empathy (even if too much information is annoying), and that truth is infinitely productive (even at its most destructive). And I think we are right to believe these things. Privacy is only offered behind locked doors. But when no one is free to come inside your personal sphere – sticking their nose in matters of your thoughts, attitudes, and actions – no real dialogue can occur. No dialogue means no movement, no change, no solutions and no real understanding of others or even ourselves. Dialogue and social interaction is crucial for individual growth and a healthy community. Don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise because they are either a coward or your enemy. I think because many of us understand this fact, consciously or unconsciously, we are quickly seduced by the idea of unlocking the door. And it makes perfect sense to bust it open and invite people in, because what kind of life is it to live it by ourselves? Although we shouldn’t be forced to reveal secrets we do not want to reveal (unless of course the secret in question is the location of the bomb or hostages or victims of a kidnap or bodies of the murdered victims), we might eagerly choose to for the breath of fresh air. On a purely experiential level, when we share what’s on our minds, it feels good – and of course there are effective therapies built around this fact. So we undress and reveal ourselves! Watch me! Please watch me! And it’s exhilarating to be naked and watched. But then we feel embarrassed and guilty about our nakedness, because we stigmatize exhibitionistic behavior as imprudent and inappropriate. So when someone (sometimes ourselves) point out this inner paradox, we make a scapegoat out of Facebook and Twitter. Damn you, you useful tools with which we indulge our twisted appetite for exposure! But I would like to take this opportunity to defend these effective hammers against the walls between us. Privacy is important, but so is openness. Self-indulgent and excessive exhibitionism is annoying, but we can just say “I don’t care” or “Too much information” to that and move on. In the form of considerate openness (not in-your-face aggressive revelations), however, I think self-exposure should be encouraged. I think twittering can be wonderfully healthy. You can email Celine at Check out her blog at

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Paralyzed with Opportunity Samantha Evans


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Ours is the generation that has it all. But no one can have it all for long. Our predecessors slaved and sacrificed for so many freedoms that we have in turn taken for granted: freedom from war, to protest against our government, to vote in a democratic election, to access free healthcare and education, to marry whom we please and to control whether and when to have children. It all seems so basic, so trivial. To those who were raised in comfy North America, freedom is so abundant that we are practically smothered by it. Compared to our grandparents or even our peers in war-torn, censored, corrupt and violent nations, we have lived the good life for far too long. As our fellow Gen-Yers in this increasingly global world struggle to eat, pray or express themselves, we fret over irrelevant idiosyncrasies: iPhone or Blackberry; the Brass Pub or Stages, Queen’s or Western? How did we become so deluded, self-indulgent, and inured to reality? The elder generations like to blame it on the media. From mass school shootings to teenage promiscuity, child obesity to street racing, name any unsavoury societal occurrence and your parents think “the media” are responsible. I bet they think it is a singular noun as well. While I don’t believe “the media” influence much more than marketing trends, it may be worthwhile to examine what is popular and eagerly consumed by our tech-savvy and quick-to-bore generation. If art does in fact imitate life, what do Nip/Tuck, Gossip Girl, The Sopranos and The Hills have to say about the world we live in? Why are we content to snack on bloody action-packed blockbusters while we are utterly complacent about real atrocities occurring everywhere but here? Like that old saying goes, if you give a man enough rope, he will hang himself. Well, we are a generation that is hanging from our very freedoms. Millions would die for the chance to cast a vote in a federal election, and half of us can’t be bothered to swing by a polling booth after class. Moreover, aside from the colossal shoulder pads and teased perms, Wall Street could have been filmed last year, for all our generation has learned about corruption and corporate power. Nortel, Enron, Hollinger, Madoff’s Ponzi scheme: We continue to buy into a fantasy of wealth and fabled entitlement as it simultaneously robs us of our security and retirement savings. If we are consumed by material possessions than we are completely enraptured by physical beauty and achieving our own rail-thin definition of it. While we may be the most digitally advanced generation with more opportunity than those from previous eras could even fathom, we are also, arguably, the most vapid. Infomercials for Excedrin and Bow-Flex machines, med-spas that offer liposuction with a manicure, a tabloid industry fuelled by tips on how to resemble anorexic 17 year olds; how have we become manipulated into feeling like second-rate versions of ourselves? Why, as the most indulged and educated generation, have we opted to believe illusions that ultimately rob us of happiness? Because as we hurry to buy the latest high-def version of consumerism, we pay the highest price: We sustain a cycle of insecurity that ties us to purchases of empty promises. How did we become satisfied by buying a picture of the ‘ideal’ life over living our own? Of course, it’s natural to criticize what you have grown up with and been taught to believe, project and defend. Just as Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There (a thoughtless narrative about a man who had too many thoughts) says, “’Course, the more you live a certain way, the less it feels like freedom.” That is to say, the longer you stay in school, at one job, with one person, or on one continent, the stronger the urge to flee the monotony of the similar and risk the unknown. Which makes me wonder, can we ever achieve the freedom we believe we desire? To a frazzled student or disgruntled employee, a six month trot around the globe sounds like bliss. But after continually packing and unpacking your life into a MEC knapsack, the nomadic lifestyle begins to feel like an anchorless ship battling the current of convention. One can dodge responsibility and commitment all he wants, but as the wild Christopher McCandless learned, the farther you run from your fears, the faster they catch up with you, until there is nowhere left to run. Previous generations struggled with the same dilemma; nineteenth century Dorian Gray was willing to sacrifice all of life’s pleasures to be forever young while Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Trauman Capote’s Holly Golightly dreaded the end of the road and being ‘caged.’ However, while literary and film stars second-guessed themselves in the ‘50s and ‘60s, our parents were jumping on the trans-Canada railroad and teaching in Africa in lieu of four year degrees that have taught us little besides how to gain an extension on a paper. We have been sheltered for so long, led to believe that anything outside our realm of experience is unworthy, foolhardy and dangerous. We spend years educating ourselves only to graduate and realize we have no idea who we are, what we want or how to achieve it. Where is our generation’s sense of adventure, drive to shake the establishment, to found our own legacy? Our cultural landscape is a barren wasteland of fallen stars, as we rally behind Britney Spears and her second sip from the Hollywood grail. This past summer we lost a musical legend of unprecedented influence and inspiration. And yet even he, the self-proclaimed King of Pop, seemed unable to escape our generation’s insatiable quest for more, ultimately self-destructing in his own surreal construction of freedom, Neverland. Who will emerge as our generation’s Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Janis Joplin, or Leonard Cohen? Do we even have anything to say for ourselves when we are not covering classic hits from previous decades? So, what will our generation become known for? To have it all is to risk throwing it all away. But as the first generation to be able to dedicate itself to the pursuit of its wildest dreams, we owe it to ourselves and to those who sacrificed for us, to exercise our freedoms and to extend them to the less fortunate and to future generations, who will, of course, not appreciate them. Read more of Samantha’s work at

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Konekt Issue 1  

September 2009