Sunday, February 28, 2010

Politicizing the Olympics

Dear Mr. Ignatieff,

You don't know me and we've never met. I've read one or two of your books and voted for your party on occasion, although that was mostly due to lack of options and just to spite our current President Prime Minister.

I am writing this letter in response to a recent news article that appeared in the Toronto Sun which examined whether or not our esteemed Prime Minister was paying for all those prime seats at Olympic events that the average Canadian such as I would love to have but can't afford. It appears that 5 people were given all access passes to the Games, one of them being Mr. Harper and one of them being yourself (the others being Harper's lackeys).

Despite this, Mr. Harper has decided to take the high road, recognizing the privilege he has as well as the hard economic times that we're in, and has decided to pay top dollar for each event he attends. This happens to be as much as $1100 a ticket.

I understand the minuscule amount this number is when you take into account the billions of dollars that went into making sure we hosted such a wasteful prestigious event. Yet, it is the symbolic nature of the gesture that at least shows he is making an effort. Not only this, but his lackeys are paying for their tickets as well.

What was your response to this? What did you say when asked about your free pass to all the Games? You are not going to be bullied by Mr. Harper's gesture and will be most certainly using your pass because you, and I quote, "don't want to politicize the Olympics." I am befuddled. Who in their right mind actually believes that the Olympics has nothing to do with politics? You fashion yourself as an Academic (capital A) and have based this on holding positions at such illustrious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, London School of Economics, and my current institution, the University of Toronto.

I presume after such a broad career at such a high level you would have come across at least one of the multitude of works that examine just exactly HOW political the Olympics are. I emphasize the 'how' because all of these writers start from the presumption that the Olympics ARE political. Everything about them is political from the funding $ to the selection of the city to the opening ceremonies to which events athletes can compete in.

You might have heard something about countries boycotting the Olympics in 1936, 1956, 1976 in Montreal (our country!), 1980, and 1984. There was also talk of boycotting the most recent summer Games in Beijing. You might have heard about how Hitler used the 1936 Games to promote White Supremacy, about athletes in Mexico who performed the Black Power salute on the podium, how 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed in 1972 (if you haven't heard of this one, there's a movie you can watch. Go to Blockbuster and ask for Munich. Steven Spielberg, Eric Bana, Academy Awards, is any of this ringing any bells?), how a bomb went off in Atlanta in 1996, or perhaps how Iranian athletes would rather withdraw than compete against Israelis. Each of these events has very little to do with athletics and almost everything to do with politics. Heck, even here in Vancouver we have people dressing up like it's Halloween and smashing windows. No doubt, the Olympics are political.

Make no mistake, I will still not be voting for Mr. Harper. His politics alienate me, his constituents enrage me, and his insistence on looking ridiculous confounds me. Nor will I vote for his lackeys which often enrage and confound me even more. Yet, your stance and subsequent statement strike me as petty politics, a low blow if we are to stick with sports talk. But your shot did not score, your trick did not fully rotate, you missed a gate... You looked foolish and little while your opponent made the right gestures.

This is what frustrates me most about your tenure as Liberal leader. Instead of making any substantive talk or, even better yet, any substantive action, you are content to mud wrestle with your opponent. If you were both young, attractive women this might be acceptable to a large percentage of the population but unfortunately you are both men who are many miles past young. What frustrates me even more, is having to admit that Mr. Harper was right on this occasion.

You'll understand, and hopefully forgive me, if I tell you there's really no way I can vote for you either in any upcoming election. Not strategically to block Mr. Harper, not for change. I want change as much as the next guy but something tells me you're not really the kind of change I want.

I hope you enjoy watching the Closing Ceremonies, say howdy to Mr. and Mrs. Harper for me.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daija Days

It's been a while since I update you on my little squirt and I know for most of you those are your favorite posts (don't worry, I don't hold it against you). She's also currently on my mind because instead of napping she has been crying in her crib off and on for the past hour (Go to sleep Child!)

She got her first ever pigtails and was quite fascinated with them.

She has some new toys that she likes playing with, like this train that she gets pushed around on and now she even pumps her fist as we go "choo-choo".

She's also getting really good at stacking her blocks up and has even more fun when I stack them up and she gets to knock them down!

Daddy's often gone long days at school so sometimes she gets to wait in the window for me to come home, which is always a nice surprise!

She's learning a bunch of new signs (or at least attempting them, sometimes it takes some creative guesswork! But you can tell she's trying to let you know!) such as car, hat, sun, horse, wait, toilet, etc...

She's also attempting to say alot more words though those take even more creative guesswork! Mostly it's just vowels with one of the few syllables she knows thrown in. She's got mama and dada down pat and is pretty good at papa (which sounds more like bubba).

She is also getting quite the will and is willing to test the limits at times. Still, she's a lot of fun!

Ready to go outside.
Singing a song that involves 'sleeping'.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'll be able to Quote Myself

I struggled with naming this post and thought of just calling it [Self-congratulatory Post] but thought that was a little less subtle than I wanted....

But the reason I might have for being so self-congratulatory is that I am getting published for the first time! And its not with one of those self-publishing places either where you pay to get ripped off. I know, I'm as shocked as you undoubtedly are. I guess someone out there thought that my thoughts were worth preserving for eternity (or at least until your dog eats the book) in a medium other than this blog (the internet is forever right?)

I am writing a chapter in a book that is tentatively titled "Spirituality, Education, and Society: An Integrated Approach." It's a collection of essays geared for educators and discussing how spirituality needs to be put into discussion with schooling and society; my essay will be based on a paper I wrote last semester on the power of collective spirituality to resist dominant norms within the classroom as envisioned through indigenous knowledges.

I'm thinking I will update you fine folks as I work through the process, simply because it is pretty much consuming my time at this point. I was given two weeks to edit and expand my essay within the given framework for the chapter and then send it back in for another edit/reading.

I'm obviously pretty excited as this is a great opportunity for me, though excitement has undoubtedly been dwarfed by worry as I edit and re-edit trying to figure out how I want my work to be represented (and how I want ME to be represented) in the academic/public sphere. I'm also pretty sure that, as this is my first publication, I will at some later point look back and laugh at how poorly written and inarticulate this article is, so I shouldn't worry about it too much!

I'm a little stressed about it all but knowing that when in fact it is done and published it will feel pretty rewarding.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympic Spirit

As you likely have surmised by the over abundance of red mittens with a Canadian flag on the palm and the incessant commercials involving a Canadian flag, wilderness or beavers, the winter Olympics are currently happening. I have a strange ambivalence to such an event, something along the lines to how C.L.R. James describes Lucian, an early commentator on the Greek Olympic games, as both repulsed and unable to stay away at the same time. I love sports and yet fully recognize that sport is not something pure and detached from society at large: it reproduces inequalities, is intricately involved in cultural production and re-production, and fully participates in racist discourses.

Here are some of my early observations on the Opening ceremonies and the Olympics as a whole:

1. Why make such a big deal about the Native chiefs being late? Dignitaries are late all the time and slip in with little fanfare or notice, so why feed the narrative that First Nations people are always late, lazy, unaware of time, etc... I hope it was an act of purposeful resistance. It was either that, or they were held up by security on their way in and had their fingers tested for explosives residue....

2. The Native dancing was one of the most blatant displays of trying to 'write' Canada as a diverse, multicultural space while at the same time ignoring the historical reality of what the land means to First Nations people. The welcome also ironically echoed the many times First Nations people welcomed the first explorers only to be thanked with death, colonialism, reserves, and exploitation. I secretly hope that when they were talking in their native tongue that they were cursing out the Olympics.

3. I almost spit out my drink when after the dancing, when the nations were about to walk into the arena, all these people clad in white came out and started to encircle the dancing First Nations people. I thought perhaps they were indeed going to be historical and start shooting or rounding them up to move them to a smaller area....

4. I then actually did spit out my drink when, as Greece was the first country to enter, the commentator said something to the like of: "They should give Greece a gold medal for their contributions to civilization around the world." Uh, seriously? Not only is modern Western society a bastardization of Greek democracy but if we take that line, the contributions that Western society has made to the rest of the world include colonization, the Atlantic slave trade, mass-scale exploitation, the spread of misogyny, etc... If we're awarding medals for such "contributions" perhaps we should award the silver to Germany for their "contributions" during World War 2 and America the bronze for their "war on terror".

5. The whole ceremony was an exercise in narrating against history, specifically in narrating Canada as a diverse, accepting, polite, forward-thinking country. From the hybridity of the punk-rock Scottish fiddlers, to the commentators constantly highlighting the diverse communities in Canada "Listen to the crowd go wild for the Chinese team, there's a large Chinese population in the greater Vancouver area...", to highlighting the benevolence of Canadians to 'developing countries' (The community coming together to buy the poor Indian team matching costumes).

6. And finally, the gross exoticism of non-White nations (speaking of which, is there anywhere a Whiter gathering of sports than the Winter Olympics?). From the mystique of the "Snow Leopard" to the appeal of the lone Jamaican athlete, there was the pandering to the "underdog", the racial other.

I know this all seems quite negative and like I hate the Olympics, and I haven't even touched on the economic or regional impact of such a bombastic, self-aggrandizing, consumerism driven event (okay, maybe I just did...) Yet, like I said I am oddly drawn to watching the breath-taking speed of the downhill skiers, the mechanical determination of the speed skaters, the high-flying snowboarders, and the thrill of the crowd when hockey is on (except for women's hockey; 18-0 is hardly a competitive sport...)

It's here and I'm not going to don a mask and smash windows but at the same time I'm not going to willfully blind myself from some of the realities of what is going on.

Interestingly enough, the first Olympics in Greece were not only about sport but it was also a time for intellectuals to gather and share ideas, for drama and theater, etc... Instead of protesting in the streets perhaps we should call for an international symposium to gather every Olympics in the host city to share ideas on sport, society, culture, etc... Actually, even in the modern era medals were awarded for "events" such as architecture, town planning, and various forms of literature such as lyrical, dramatic, and epic. Perhaps Vancouver should award medals for protesting... ;)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Falsely Arrested?

Just a short post, I don't want to rant and rave. It gets tiring.

You've likely heard about the 10 Americans arrested in Haiti for trying to illegally take 33 "orphans" across the border to the Dominican Republic. You may have also heard that they belong to a church group.

If you go to the church's website the first thing you see is an update telling you that the group has been "falsely arrested".

The leader of the group stated to press that they didn't think they needed approval to take the children out of the country, they were just trying to help.

Regardless of whether or not their intentions were good or or not, they were correctly arrested for breaking the Haitian law. You cannot legally take any children across any national border without paperwork, even if it were simply Daija and I going for a say trip to Detroit. This is common sense. Also common sense: when you break the law (intentional or not) you get arrested.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" or something like that. Whether I intend to break the law or not doesn't change the fact that the law is broken. Some are blaming the religious aid groups as a whole, some are citing the arrogance of Americans in flouting laws in another country, many are pointing to ignorance and stupidity, some are balling them all up into a maelstrom of epic proportions but, like I said, I don't want to rant and rave. Just wanted to say, this was not a false arrest. False arrest is when you didn't do anything wrong - they definitely did.