critical thinking

dear Canada

I’ve recently been seeing Facebook posts from well-meaning Canadians demanding that candidates refrain from dirt-slinging this federal election season. Some posts even declare that such behaviour will cost their vote. This is particularly troubling, because it smacks of childish petulance and we need to be so much better than that. I mean, what, in protest you’re going to vote for the other guy? Abstain? Please.

Dear 🇨🇦, respectfully, it sounds like you’re somehow missing the big picture. We have a responsibility to get informed on the positions our parties are taking. Who cares what the campaign ads are saying? It’s just marketing. Ignore the promises and stick to the facts. There are things we know. Conservatives will cut public services and deregulate business, trusting the free market to do something about the environment. The NDP will expand public services, curb corporate malfeasance, and promote green investment. They believe we should pay taxes and fully enjoy the benefits of paying them. The Greens are a one-platform party who work most effectively as part of the opposition. The Liberals want to get all the oil out while it’s still worth something, even at massive risk to the environment. They believe corporate investment will fix everything, even though it historically doesn’t. They are incentivizing green development, but simultaneously massively subsidizing fossil fuel companies (that’s not new, but I do think it needs to be wound down). You may disagree with my characterization of the parties, and that’s great. I welcome debate because it means you’ve gone to the trouble of getting informed. And that’s what we desperately need right now – a population that knows as much as our elected leaders.

9/11 and doing better

This year on 9/11 “Never Forget” is not enough in the era of trumpism. We have to do better. The hijackers were mostly middle class Saudis, some of whom had Christian European education. They did not come from a vacuum. We were instrumental in creating al Qaeda. Attempting to contain Soviet influence, the US actively worked to destabilize the Middle East, funding and training radical Muslims. And here we are, with a racist president who publicly insults Muslims and casually destroys decades of international and interfaith detente. So while you’re honoring the memory of 9/11 and the three thousand innocent Americans killed, think about how we got there and where we go from here. And think about your vote in the next election.

We’ve tried regime-building and proxy wars and it has never gone well. It came home disastrously. Now we’re trying insults and isolationism. It’s not going well. Maybe it’s time to fulfill our own idyllic fantasy of being a benevolent and powerful engine of global peace not through force but through compassion. Just my two bits.

james gunn fired from disney for ten year old tweets

The article on Nerdist.com: James Gunn Fired From Guardians 3 Over Controversial Tweets

I’m with James Gunn on this one. I’ve made insensitive jokes and I’ve made angry blog posts and I’ve said all sorts of regretful things online (where nothing ever truly goes away). Like him, I think I’ve come a long way since then. Like him, I may one day be called to task for them anyway. This is the world now. Is it worth it? Near-infinite accountability for the evil and mostly-good alike? When some thoughtless (or misguided) comments may one day ruin a lifetime of good work? I don’t know. I cheer when “we” throw down a tyrant and I cringe when “we” tear down a good person who showed poor judgment.

The problem, you see, is that accountability does not apply to the mob. The mob can do anything it wants to whomever it wants, and no one can do anything about it. It strikes without warning at the least likely of people just as often as at the tyrants. No one can predict what perceived transgression will draw the merciless wrath of the hordes.

All we can do then is try to stay ahead of it. To confess our sins before we are dragged down.

So I should go through all my old blog posts for anything that, taken in a particular context, might make me seem like a bad person. And then I should hold it up for public scrutiny and declare that I have since mended my ways. I should proactively beg for forgiveness. All just in case someone somewhere down the line wants to hurt me.

Well yes. That’s what you have to do now, apparently. Because the mob will gleefully eat you alive if you give it half a chance. Us normal people, anyway. It’s different if powerful people depend on you in order to keep their power, right trump? Then you can do and say anything you want; laws, morality, and the almighty mob be damned. Or so it seems to us normal people.

Maybe that’s why we’re so eager to destroy each others’ lives in our righteous fury: because we’re feeling helpless against those that most clearly need to be taken down.

We should quit doing their work for them. We should refuse to be distracted. Or at least – at least – we should get better at asking questions.

Like, was James Gunn so irredeemable in his words that ten years after the fact he deserves to lose his job?

I don’t know. I don’t know what his words were. I don’t know the context. I don’t know him personally. Maybe he secretly feels pedophilia is just fine. Or maybe it’s so horrific to him that he tries to keep it at arms length with ill-advised humor. It doesn’t seem to matter to the mob. It should. I think there is a difference between insensitive and cruel. Bad jokes vs promoting evil. Context matters, and we are far too quick to ignore it in social media.

I know that ten years ago it was more socially acceptable to be a little provocative. If we let ourselves off the hook because we are maturing, how can we do any less for him over the exact same span of time?

How did we get here? Are we changing for the better?

Or are we just being divided? Played? Managed? Surely it’s not normal that we should turn on someone so fiercely, especially when they are already on the record as saying they regret their actions? Especially when there are so many more worthy targets right now?

I’m sorry this happened to you, Mr Gunn. I think you handled it well. I hope that, if it one day happens to me, there will be someone out there who feels for me like I do for you. That it is a sad day when we are so blindly bloodthirsty that a corporation will cheerfully sacrifice the lamb to us in hopes we won’t notice the flock behind them. That Disney gets to continue doing business after “Song of the South” but James has to pack up his desk and go home.

I hope we get better at asking questions.