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More Opinions than Assholes

a montrealer's view on every damned thing

2/28/07 07:36 pm - Greener Pastures

Well, the day has come; I must uproot this blog. Livejournal has been a decent host, but their setup is clunky and I am not a fan, therefor, as of right now this blog is moved to blogspot. The new site is http://moopthas.blogspot.com. I hope to see all one of you there (not a typo).

2/12/07 11:35 pm - Unreasonably Unaccommodating

The phenomenon of "reasonable accomadation" has hit this city hard and fast; there are very few people who haven't had a conversation on the topic already and even fewer who've found anyone who thinks exactly as they do on the matter (I am intentionally leaving out the Rest of Quebec and the Rest of Canada). All over the city, now, people are bending over backwards for one of two reasons:

1) They're kowtowing to the religious pressures and suddenly becoming "reasonably accommodating," hoping to avoid public ire and basically attempting to please everyone. These are the gyms with frosted windows, preventing pour religious folk from the "offensive" experience of being exposed to what a woman's body actually looks like.

2) They're vehemently opposing the trend of accomodation, not with reasoned arguments or serious complaint, but rather with intolerance and invective. There have been songs and long diatribes written down about the subject; drawn-out, uneducated bar-room arguments which accomplish nothing beyond the exacerbation of hatreds which have been subsiding up until this point have simply been far too numerous.

Neither of these is a viable solution, of course; we'll never be able to make everyone happy and the onus isn't on us to ensure every individual person's happiness. It is also evident that we cannot succumb to the quickly encroaching xenophobia (which has already claimed at least one small town in the province around our fair city), in the current global political climate and in the face of such realities as the declining birth rate in the western world it would be patently foolish to turn away immigrants who could greatly add to our economic stability and allow us to maintain our way of life.

While the two options currently being pursued by the population of Montreal may not be the correct ones, there is an option which has remained unexplored: secularism.

We in this country pride ourselves on multiculturalism and secular legislature and yet there is truth in the observation that the prevalent worldview in our government is plainly judeo-christian; there is, of course, nothing we can do about the views of the politicians themselves, but the laws we can change. We can expunge our country of preferential treatment for any and all religion. This work must begin with our calendar.

We already allow people of various religious sects to take their respective religious holidays off of work and school, it is not a leap of logic to extend this to christianity aswell; Christmas should be an optional holiday, along with easter and whatever else people take off for religious reasons. If we are to have equality, it must be universal equality.

Andrew, a friend of mine, offered a very sensible solution to the problem of religious holidays which encompasses what I have written above; legislators should choose the religion with the highest number of religious holidays and apply that number accross the board, calling them "personal holidays" and leaving it at that - everyone who works would be allowed to use them as they pleased and it would not negatively impact their already existing vacation packages as it does not significantly alter the number of days which an employee works.

It is reasonable and is not patronizingly "accomodating," it simply creates a level playing field.

More significant than any change of the calendar would be to remove the meaningless religious discourse from our laws; the Charter of Rights is one example, stating in the opening sentence that it derives its legitimacy from the supremacy of God: this is meaningless. The Charter derives its legitimacy from us, the people of the country whose democratic support makes it possible (Jean-Jacques Rousseau dealt with this over two-hundred years ago, get with the times).

Now, some may ask themselves why secularism is a better answer than reasonable accommodation (I hope no one questions the wisdom of secularism over blind intolerance) and the answer is simply a matter of equality; under a system which allows preferential treatment of anyone holding a "sacred" text, atheists lose out. In a truly equal society, everyone is truly equal; this is impossible when religious groups can impose their will on the world around them and atheists, who have no holy texts (or any reason to have any) are left high and dry, forced to accommodate people whose ridiculous tenets diminish the freedom of everyone around them for the sole purpose of increasing their own personal comfort.

Accommodation, beyond being a reminder of the Christian predominance in this country, is a politically correct and highly inefficient way of curtailing the freedom of private citizens by appealing to their desire to "live in harmony;" it is a heinous idea which, in attempting to unify and pacify the population is ultimately divisive. We do not need it, on any level.

Not even on those levels which we've taken as granted for a great many years now.

12/30/06 03:38 pm - Saying Goodbye to the Year that will Never Leave Me

Two thousand and six, Anno Domini or Common Era, depending on who you ask, was very, very long. This time last year I was preparing my return to night-classes at Dawson College, unsure of anything related to my future and knowing only one thing - I needed to WRITE. Since then, I've passed two semesters spectacularly, written over twenty-thousand words in my novel-in-progress alone - not including the massive revision it's undergone in the last six months - and made a lot of friends. I've worked hard, played harder and fallen in love. I've come into my own this year and through it all the need to write hasn't left me; it's been more or less the only constant this year, the only one other than my lovely girlfriend, Christina, whom I love with all of my heart.

The darkest day of this year affirmed that love in a terrible way. The day which will define this year in the eyes of future generations brought me closer to her than any other and it is because of my very, very deep love for her that a part of me never leave September 13th, 2006 behind:

When unconscionable evil was visited upon Dawson College on that day, I was at work (having caught a black widow spider earlier that day, I was actually feeling half-decent). I received a phone call about fifteen minutes after I'd returned to work from my lunch and, for some reason I did what I never usually do at work; I answered. It was a woman I consider my second mother, Joyce, who works near Dawson; she was calling to reassure herself that I was okay. I asked why and she told me.

I spent the next two hours frantically trying not to lose my mind as I worked and - after a confrontation over it with my boss - answered my phone religiously as more and more information poured in. My girlfriend had not been seen by anyone, had not been heard from by a single living soul, since the first shots had echoed off the walls of the buildings lining De Maisonneuve Boulevard.

Her mother called me, in tears, and I could do nothing to reassure her; I could not even share her tears. I boiled with anger. The killer was already dead, but I felt as though, through the power of my rage alone, I might at any moment reach into the past and kill him myself, with my bare hands.

The first shots were fired at 12:41 pm, right after lunch, on a day that is more tangible for me than September 11th. It was not until almost three o'clock that the one name I was waiting to see appeared on my cell-phone's tiny LCD screen. I answered and, even in my shocked and angry state I drank the sound of her voice. Relief flooded my being and happiness I had not known at any time during my life overtook me. I nearly sobbed right there, on the phone in the middle of a grocery store next to my close friends Christopher and Jason.

I remember the way the all-too-bright full-spectrum lighting glinted off the metal trimming of a nearby refrigerated counter. I remember the rhythm of my heartbeat as it competed with Christina's voice for aural priority. I remember it all vividly as though it is still happening, right this very moment.

It's been almost four months now. Today I read a 'year-in-review' section in my local paper and it dealt briefly with what its journalists call the Dawson Tragedy and, as every time I read, listen to, talk about or see anything that deals - at even remotely significant length - with that day, tears began to well up in my eyes. With some difficulty, I turned the page.

I fear it will never cease to be difficult.

12/11/06 01:44 pm - Grim Day in the Great City

Bob Gainey is a figurehead in this city - as the Archbishop of the Church of the Habs, he ought to be.

It is perhaps fitting that the skies are dark and grey over montreal as the Canadiens GM is joined, by the entire city, in grief, this weekend. His daughter, Laura Gainey, was washed out to sea on Friday night and, as she's been forced to swim in rough seas for two or three days, it is entirely likely - almost certain, in fact - that she has perished. It can only be hoped that she shares her father's fortitude and endurance, and that the search party finds her today.

The GM's birthday is only two days away, and we can be fairly confident that we know what it is he wants to see when he sits down for breakfast with his family wednesday morning, and I sincerely wish that he gets it. It would be unfair to him - he who has survived a brutal career as a defensive forward, a difficult life raising four children alone and the loss of his wife to a malignant brain tumour - if he were forced to mourn once again.

It is a testament to Gainey's character that, unlike so many other celebrities on the continent undergoing a period of grief, he has been relatively unhassled by the press. He is a man of few words, with a reputation for privacy, honesty, hard work and good judgement; it is a reputation he has earned, and that cannot be overstated. The press knows this, and even the more adventurous, obnoxious and insensitive of journalists over at le Journal de Montréal have kept themselves reined in.

This city has had some terrible luck this fall, starting with the Dawson Shooting and ending with this unforseeable and incomprehensible tragedy. I am not one to believe in luck or the supernatural, but perhaps our gloomy weather has simply been fitting.

I, for one, am tired of the gloom and I wish the Gainey family all the best in finding their way through this latest and greatest of difficulties in their lives.

10/11/06 06:44 pm - Society's Unpleasant Predilections

In the wake of the horrific event of September 13th - the shooting rampage undertaken by the 25 year old Kimveer Gill in Dawson College's second floor atrium - there has been more speculation about his motivations and the ramifications of his actions on the ever-sensitive issue of gun-control than there has been in nearly fifteen years. It is obvious that the gun-registry did nothing to prevent this tragedy - it has never had such high ambitions as to control what people do with their guns, it is simply a law-enforcement tool, that police may know, when detaining or searching someone's abode, whether there are any legal firearms on the premesis to endanger their lives - and people are now calling either for its abolition or an all-out gun ban.

Neither is a good idea. As stated, the gun-registry is a useful law-enforcement tool that probably saves more police lives every year than bulletproof vests - other than increasing its efficiency, not much should be done to change the registry. It would be irresponsible, now that the data is collected and the registry infrastructure is in place, to deprive our police forces of this vital resource. As far as an all-out gun-ban is concerned, this is a matter of principle rather than practicality and the source of the first social predilection which I find myself railing against. The Government of Canada exists to serve our interests, and it is obviously in our interest for people not to kill each other, however, it is also in our interests to maintain a certain amout of liberty which has, up until now, elevated our nation to the level of the most prosperous nations of the earth. The knee-jerk responses which have come to typify North American policy-making cannot continue. We cannot and should not ban every single thing that is used malisciously or otherwise hurts individual citizens; every time we give in to that politically correct temptation (the above-mentionned predilection), we surrender more and more freedoms to our Government and we foster lawmaking that assumes the average citizen of being criminally incapable of containing himself.

The second, and more worrying, unpleasant predilection of our society is that governing how we view the motivations of monsters such as Kimveer Gill or Marc Lépine or Valery Fabrikant. With dangerously increasing frequency, we have begun to view these criminals - these murderers - as victims of society's horrible perversions, or some failure on our part to protect them from abuse, or violent video-games and movies, or mommies who don't change their diapers just fucking right.

They are not victims. Society does not pull the trigger and these people play the same videogames and watch the same movies and read the same books and listen to the same music as everyone else. Were any of these the cause of their insane, sociopathic activities, we would be a society unchained, with rampant murder and anarchic (as opposed to anarchistic) conditions so bad we'd fear for our lives even in our own homes. The most that can be said in the defense of these evil men is that they were sick, mentally-ill, and that their symptoms went unnoticed for too long. It is not the duty of society to watch after the wayward sociopaths who infiltrate it - the kind of monitoring that would entail goes back to my point about surrendering freedoms. Rather, it would behove all of us if, when we heard people speaking of "dying in a hail of bullets" or some other such nonsense, that we turn to them and let them know how ridiculous and senseless such statements are.

It is unfortunate, but we cannot - morally - put into place any sort of monitoring agency or system aimed at finding and removing such people from the street as - violation of rights to privacy, freedom of speech and freedom of association aside - until they demonstrate dangerous attitudes or illness, they have done nothing illegal and need to have their rights respected as much as anyone. A society that values rights, freedoms and liberty as much as that which we, in the west, have admirably accomplished for ourselves, cannot allow itself to go against those values, not can it allow itself to treat criminals as victims and society as a whole as criminal.

We are better than these immoral, sociopathic murderers and it's okay to admit it to ourselves.

8/16/06 02:00 am - Of Freedoms and Chains

The freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental principles of any free and just society. Without it, ideas are confined to single minds; they cannot unite people and they cannot drive change.

Ideas are the most powerful tool of the human mind. They are an expression of consciousness and they are - so far - uniquely a human trait. The meme, as Dr. Dawkins so helpfully named this one unit of replication, can move entire nations; an idea can change everything.

In the state of Virginia there are public areas in which cursing has been banned; a fine is applicable if a police officer catches you using a four-letter word. There is fucking signage for this shit. This is an affront so dispicable, so utterly fascist that it is hard to imagine it happening in a place like the USA, where breathing the word gun-control too loud will land you in the middle of a decades long debate that is not nearing its end.

There is a common argument, a defense, used to justify this unbelievably wrong-headed approach to society. It states that while free speech is all well and good, curbing excessive cursing would hardly qualify as fascist.

My opinions on the use of so-called "curse words" for emphasis are well known and I shall dispense with them in this particular rant. It is more important to focus on the question of whether or not the protection of our sensibilities is truly worth the loss of the defining freedom of western culture.

There is a precedent set by the banning of any speech: cursing, hate-speech, political dissention, it does not matter! Because in a society ruled by majority - and in a nation as fucking polarized politically as the USA has become - it is not a stretch to imagine a swearing ban being extended to other distasteful speech. For example, statements supporting hezbollah or the palestinian authority or hamas or any other of these factions which are in opposition of the USA's favourite ally.

I do not claim to support either Israel or Hamas or any of the other squabbling factions in that hellish bowl of sand the world has come to covet not for its people or its beauty, but for the useful black goop burried beneath all of these. Whatever the outcome, it is not my decision to make, nor is it the USA's or Canada's or NATO's. It is important, however, that open discussion be allowed on all topics and that bans never be extended to language, lest we truly become as the governed and oppressed of such wonderful (historical) dictatorial havens as Nazi Germany, the Stalinist USSR or Maoist China.

I am a child of the west. I am a free individual who believes in liberty, happiness and self-determination. As such, I have the right to say fuck, ass, shit, piss, cunt, twat, gobshite and any other crass and vulgar term I choose to use.

Taking it away means the end of the free world as we know it. It is the death of the Glorious West.

8/5/06 07:18 pm - The vagaries of CEGEP

The CEGEP system in Quebec is based on the quixotic idea that, while full-blown University can prepare the White Collars of tomorrow to fulfill their dreams, it is far too trying a crucible for those students with... Somewhat less lofty ambitions. There is a certain dedication of mind and spirit required by the University environment which many students, fresh out of the day-care framework of the high-school, do not possess, nor could (or should) some of them even be asked to comprehend it. CEGEP is the transitional process; while you are granted all the freedom of mind and - more importantly - body that you would expect at the very pinnacle of academia, the teaching staff is much more hands on and there remain certain constraints (such as mandatory PE) which smack of that same day-care framework which has hitherto been, of course, the vernacular of kindergarten, gradeschool and high-school.

While the ideas that govern which classes are mandatory (language laws, health initiatives, etc.) are indeed quite laudable, to demand that a student devote time and energy into a "higher-education" which does not interest him is intellectually barbaric. If, for example, a student is following technical training in electronics, why ask that he also jump through hoops to master literature and a "minimum level of physical fitness and health awareness"? I know from first hand experience how difficult the electronics classes on their own can be, to add an element of discouraging tedium to that environment is wrong.

Beyond this, the CEGEP system, and the laws associated to it, pose a far greater problem. The imposition of the system on students, some of whom are not interested, acts as a barrier preventing them from attaining the halls of academia that may just hold for them the knowledge that would excite or even spark their passion for learning and self-improvement. Entire careers are halted by the minimum delays and mandatory cegep terms which prevent very intelligent students from access to an education which is their right.

Our province is home to some universities of high-prestige and it is unfortunate that the very men and women who could and should benefit most from them are barred therefrom by those men and women whom we have elected to see our rights protected and our lot improved. It is saddening, in its own way.

1/24/06 01:45 am - Elections Schmelections

I would like to open this up with a message to my fellow Canadians who may have chosen to vote for Harper - there're a good deal of you, fourty percent of voters, apparently; Fuck you. Fuck you right to hell. Stephen Harper's band of merry-fascists have been cozying up to the massed moronic lot of you and you just had to give him the reach around... This is a pathetically sad time in Canadian history and if Harper DARES attack those civil rights we have managed to pry from the already pro-business grits these last ten years, I swear I will find at least one of you and beat you within an inch of your life.

Harper spent the summer of 2005 showing us his real face; a visage disfigured by anger and hatred and intolerance while he tore into the Liberal leadership and more specifically Gay Marriage laws. I didn't realize that all it would take was a few million dollars in advertising money to turn millions of intelligent Canadians into millions of gullible fools, sucking up their propaganda through a straw.

Luckily the election has created a minority Conservative government, which ought not have the clout to do the major reworking that our new Prime Minister craves in his most depressingly Southern-Baptistesque wet dreams. A more disturbing thought is brought on by seeing how easily Harper managed to sway so many Canadians, which means that a centre-right style policy for the next few years - with a couple of even slightly left bills thrown in - might just fool Canadian voters into giving him the majority he needs to truly throw the Charter of Rights and Freedoms right out the window.

As it stands, the Bloc Quebecois holds the balance of power, anything the Conservatives try to pass will have to agree with the BQ's principles - luckily for the - now - Right Honourable (that's a laugh) Stephen Harper, Duceppe's been so busy sucking the man's white, christian cock to bother raising any sort of objection, and if it means more "freedom" (or political fodder) for Quebec they're very unlikely to raise so much as an eyebrow. To anyone living in Montreal with any interest in not being part of the only wealthy western power to balkanize, this is a touch worrying.

If I wasn't so friggin' giddy about life right now, I'd go out and find me a nice Conservative voter right this instant if it meant going door to door.

Fuck you, Canada. Fuck you, Quebec. Most importantly; fuck you, Harper.

11/23/05 12:14 am - The Boisclair Equations

So André Boisclair is the province's next Premier. Well, not yet, all he won was the PQ leadership race, we won't have provincial elections for another two to three years. However, Charest's fans are few and far between and the ADQ is broke. The PQ is the only party left in Québec with enough money and support to actually run a succesful election campaign and win, hence the statement. So while it may be impolitic to consider it a fait accompli, it is an interesting fact that Québec will become the only government (above the municipal level) in North America (or the world, my grasp of european politics has been... Er... Non-existent, of late) in history to have an openly homosexual, avowed cocaine addict at its head.

Now while the cokehead bit may arouse some... Discomfort, I mention the sexual orientation only for its momentous - and rather unique - value. The young party leader claims to no longer use the stimulant, but who can say for sure... In all honesty, I doubt it matters. What this means for Québec is that there is now a very charismatic and unscrupulous man leading the sovereignist charge and he may just win it. Referendum by 2008? I shudder to think.

In any event, the closer-to-home considerations must prevail. Montreal is not Québec and Montreal is not Canada. Montreal is unique in this province, in this country and in this world. It's very existence is a contradiction of the sovereignists main point - that Québec is a seperate culture from Canada (Québec's own cultural fabric is fragmented throughout, with Irish-French, pure French, English, Irish-English, Aboriginal and Métis people each cutting their own slice in their own little part of the province. Montreal is the only place where these different cultures truly mingle and mix and become one) - but don't try selling that to the Québecois; they won't buy it.

What they likely will do is go through with it, taking our wonderful city with them. A thought I had recently was that this needn't be the case - a referendum of our own might be called and the city could break away from the new statelet; it would effectively become one of the planet's only city-states. The city's economy is strong enough to hold it together and a free-trade agreement with Québec (aswell as buying into NAFTA, should it ever prove to actually work) might make it entirely possible.

Fanciful as this might sound, it may well be the only way to maintain our area's prosperity and cultural beauty - the oppression of the OLF (ironic though their name may be) has puched Montreal's Irish into poverty, it's robbed perfectly viable businesses and has caused undue grief to far too many very respectable Canadian and, more importantly, Montreal citizens.

Whatever happens; the political war's about to see it's D-Day. I hope to Marx that this city won't be labelled "acceptable loss".

11/15/05 12:28 am - Otherwise Occupied

I've been thoroughly engrossed in the writing of my newest project of late and haven't had time to fill my ultra-radical psychotic paranoia collumn of late, though I (semi)promise something before week's end.

Also, please note: Someone is trying to send me text messages and while I applaud that person's enthusiasm, the broken-ness of my phone's screen prevents any and all reception. I have to clear the "new message" icon (on the outside of the phone) blindly, so I'd appreciate a cessetion of said SMS bombardment.

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