Saturday, April 21, 2007
So I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Euphemisms, and I came across an interesting point: the phrase "crippled" is not inherently more derogatory than the phrase "handicapped" or "handi-capable" or whatever your PC term of choice is. In fact, other more euphemistic phrases minght be, objectively speaking, more perjorative, because to say someone is "crippled" (or "deaf" or "visually-impaired") is to describe them as having one characteristic, whithout commenting on their other characteristics. Conversely, to call someone "differently abled" or say "wheelchair dependant" is, seemingly, to limit the range of characteristics he or she might have.
In the early 1960s, Bill Veeck, who was missing part of a leg, argued against the then-favored euphemism "handicapped", saying he preferred "crippled" because it was merely descriptive and did not carry connotations of limiting one's capability the way "handicapped" (and all of its subsequent euphemisms) seemed to do.
It's semantic, sure, but I love semantics. And I've always felt that some of the terms which have taken on (and sometimes lost) credence in my lifetime are silly.
For instance, I can see why we don't call people "Indians". European explorers thought they'd arrived in India, and so called the people Indians, and they were very wrong. Okay. But why can't we use "Native" anymore? I suppose I understand the argument from ambiguity--as a seventh-generation Canadian, aren't I also native?--but that would seem to be cleared up by the use of the capital N. Besides which, the same ambiguity crops up with the use of "indigenous", and I can't shake the feeling that "aboriginal" is inextricably connected to "aboriginee" and other derogatory terms used against native/indigenous/aboriginal Australians.
It would be ideal of course if we could refer to people by their specific origin (tribe or nation) when appropriate, but there is no denying a commonality of experience amongst "First Nations", and also amongst an un-named category which includes the First Nations as well as the Inuit, Metis, et cetera. True, we don't want people to be limited by the labels we apply, but the fact is that to discuss anything we need words for it. And the labels must be accurate, first and foremost.
Coined by Winston Churchill campaigning in the 1906 election, and repeated by him in the parliament,
- The conditions of the Transvaal ordinance ... cannot in the opinion of His Majesty's Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude. — in the parliament 22 February 1906 (quoted in Nigel Rees, Sayings of the Century, 1984)
This first usage has only the literal sense of inaccurate terminology, but it was almost immediately taken up as a euphemism meaning an outright lie.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
So on Saturday, I went up to campus, was starving, and thought "Oh look, that sausage cart is open! Let's have lunch there!" I was, of course, talking to myself…
At any rate, that's where I decided to eat. Within six hours, I was regretting it.
Which brings to mind one of my favourite quotations, "Je weniger die Leute darüber wissen, wie Würste und Gesetze gemacht werden, desto besser schlafen sie nachts."†
So my thirty page paper on transplant tourism goes to hell, as I crumple up in my bed with the cold shakes, unable to eat or drink.
Didn't go into work on Monday, so poor DC had to run the office itself. I was going crazy with guilt about it, and between that and feeling like death I didn't get the essay finished by the time it was due. Thank goodness I e-mailed Prof CS, and he graciously gave me two days, so I shall hand it in tomorrow. It's almost entirely done, just needs some tidying.
In other news, I have been reading a delightful webcomic called Questionable Content (which has been around a while—clearly I am behind in my game).
And finally, I am testing of the MS Word 2007 blogging feature. We shall see what we shall see…
† Usually translated as "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."
But more accurately: "The lesser the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep in the night."
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Grandparents are interesting creatures. I have so much in common with mine that it sometimes scares me. Other times, I get e-mail forwards like this:
A woman wrote the best 'Letter to the Editor' in ages!!
She cuts to the quick and explains things better than all the baloney you hear on TV.
Her letter said:
Recently, large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that parliment is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that Canada might actually want to protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, make it harder (as an illegal immigrant) to stay indefinitely. Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.
Let's say I break into your house. Then, when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, 'I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and done the laundry and swept the floors; I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).
According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan, educate my kids, and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work) because he too is hard-working and honest, except for that breaking-in part.
If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my illegal right to be there.
It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm hard-working and honest, um, except for well, you know. And what a deal it is for me!!
I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice and being an anti-housebreaker. Oh yeah, and I want you to learn my language so you can communicate with me! English is too hard for me to learn. You should also allow me to vote - in my own language, since I live in your house!
Why can't people see how ridiculous this is? Only in Canada!
Oooohkay, wtf? Let's break down the problems with this, shall we?
According to the author:
- immigrants are only good at domestic labour
- immigrants do not speak passable English
- immigrants refuse to learn passable English
- all illegal immigrant came to Canada with the intent of material benefit with no regard for our laws
- immigrants contribute far less to Canada than they receive from state-sponsored benefits
Lies Mistakes of Fact
- "Recently, large demonstrations have taken place across the country...": how odd that this would receive no news coverage...oh wait, that's right, it hasn't happened. In fact, off the top of my head I cannot think of a single example of popular unrest at the thought of turfing real illegal immigrants, excepting the occasional case-specific situation involving terminally ill children or government mishandling of deportations.
- "...protesting the fact that parliment [Parliament?] is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration.": No, see, Parliament has always addressed this issue. We deport a small but steady stream of people out of Canada all the time, and we have for decades. The "problem" is that we do it right, so there are rarely massive raids that make headlines. We're also less active in seeking out illegal immigrants, because it's simply more efficient for us to wait for them to come to us. Eventually, one will always get a parking ticket or some regulatory or criminal charge that lands them in jail (and by jail I mean a motel out by Pearson).
- "Let's say I break into your house." Let's not. Let's instead acknowledge that this metaphor is not a good one for illegal immigration. House ≠ state.
- "According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan, educate my kids, and provide other benefits to me and to my family...": Given that health and education are universally recognized rights, I have an extremely hard time resenting illegal immigrants for requiring them. Oh plus? Thanks to the bureaucracy that is my beloved welfare state, randoms can't access these benefits. If you're accessing them, the government knows who you are. Or it could if it wished to know. Unless you're committing fraud, which is a whole other issue.
- "I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep...": again, house ≠ state. And everyone only contributes "a fraction of the cost" of their keep in Canada. I think our economy benefits more from illegal immigrants who are contributing than Canadian-born slackers who aren't, and rarely do we get funny e-mail forwards suggesting we evict all of them.
- And finally, my favourite: "Oh yeah, and I want you to learn my language so you can communicate with me! English is too hard for me to learn. You should also allow me to vote - in my own language, since I live in your house!" Unless the author considers francophones to be illegal immigrants, I have no idea what she's talking about. We don't even force people to learn both official languages, let alone minority languages. It's possible she's referring to mono-cultural neighborhoods where most of the signage is not in English, but honestly, you may have to learn some Lebanese Arabic if you want a really good falafel. If you can order a venti café latte or quiche Lorraine, but get offended by non-English signage, then you really need to suck it up. Furthermore, unless you speak a First Nations' language fluently, I hereby order you to shut your cakehole.
We're (almost) all immigrants, and the country has bigger problems than that to contend with, so calm yourself down.
And welcome to the real Canada.
We have excellent falafels.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Have you ever read an academic article with which you disagreed?
...Okay, perhaps that's a stupid question. What I mean is, have you ever read an article by someone who is clearly well-regarded, an expert in his or her field, years ahead of you in education and experience, and yet been so fundamentally opposed to every argument made that you have to pause at the end of every paragraph to blink and shake your head and mutter "Oh no she didn't". Where your marginalia, instead of cogent points like "Cf. x's article on y" and "key point!" and "is this supported by the evidence" is replaced by unhelpful but sincere scribblings of "bitch, please!" and "wtf, mf?" and, bien sûr, "oh no she didn't".
This is the dilemma I'm finding myself in while doing research for my International Human Rights Law paper on organ theft and transplant tourism (well, one of the dilemmas...the other involves finding some way to work in a Soylent Green joke). One of the main writers on the topic, a go-to person if you will, is so hypocritical, biased, and unanalytical in her writing that I'm seriously considering writing a reply and trying to get it published.
Points of angry-making:
- Un-ironic use of the term "neocannibalism" to describe people who go from Western/developed countries to get organs from other countries. Why is this a problem? Well, if you've known me for any length of time, you have no doubt heard my rant about the post-colonial lit prof I had in undergrad (also, btw, a world-renowned expert) who, among other statements with which I disagreed, told us that cannibalism is no different from communion, and we only felt uncomfortable about or sickened by it because we were culturally biased and euro-centric and could never understand anything outside our own terminally white experience. I tried to point out to her that while cannibalism might be a morally neutral activity (I'm talking ritual religious cannibalism here) it was an objectively negative or otherwise pathological activity because it causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (I was wrong, actually it causes Kuru...close enough).
- Constantly problematizing the idea that the poor of India/Turkey/Brazil/wherever are capable of making the free "choice" to sell their kidneys, since their choices are constrained by the grinding poverty in which they live. Now, that is not in itself a problem; usually I find anti-paternal-arguments-from-autonomy suspect for the following reason: poor people are stupid--not because they are poor, but because they are people. However, when rich people fall on their asses, they are protected by a fat wad of cash, whereas poor people shatter their coccyx. I developed this theory through a childhood lived in uncomfortable proximity to the poverty line. At any rate, what bothers me is that the author goes on and on about the constraints poverty places on free choice, while seemingly ignoring the constraints on choice that come from the fact that your organs are failing and you are dying.
- Begging the question left right and centre, particularly on the issue of whether the dead have an interest in their organs sufficient to make presumed-consent regimes objectively harmful. Let me repreat this, for clarity: she (and she is not the only one, by any means) sincerely contests that dead people have a right to coporeal integrity that is based on...their right to corporeal integrity. No religious or practical reason for this right is given--it appears to be a freestanding and inalienable right.
I have spent weeks trying to wrap my head around that last one without any luck. This paper is going to be...interesting.
And now, in a show of pop-culture solidarity unrelated to the above, a favourite quote from a favourite television show:
(After swiping a glass of water off a table in anger)
Ghost Dean: Dude, I full-on Swazyed that mother!
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I am going to Galway June 10th to 17th. For reals, yo.
I am working for the Journal this summer!
Okay, so the "bad" news is that the Journal is only 12 weeks of work. Boo hoo and all that jazz. Yes, it involves a paycut. However, I am forcing myself to remember several key things:
- I ♥ the Journal to a possibly unhealthy extent.
- I will be able to complete the insane summer workload at the office without dying.
- I will actually have some time off in the summer, an event that occurs with roughly the same frequency as Halley's Comet.
So, my brain can please shut up about the paycut or whatever I'll be taking. Please. That would be awesome, thanks.
The Washington Post reports that a rare congenital disorder may have been a factor in the famed Hatfield-McCoy feud. The best/funniest part is that certain experts on the feud are denying the importance of the fact that the McCoys have a disorder which makes them irrationally angry (or, more specifically, makes them blindly furious where healthy people would just get a little irked).
This is the Hatfields, not the McCoys...but they don't look irrationally angry, do they? Of course, they have chosen to include guns in their family portrait...not sure what that's all about...
I'm sorry, what? What possible point could there be to that? How obviously a connection do you need? No one is saying the feud was caused by the illness, only that its severity and length were probably the result of the fact that the McCoy's were medically predisposed to going apeshit at the mildest provocation. How do you respond to that with derision? Ahhh!
Thursday, April 05, 2007
J.B. just gave me props on my blog (props...that what the kids are saying now, right? prop-ez?)
I just wish people would comment more *cough* *cough*...
ANYWAYS, on Tuesday evening, getting off the 196, I nearly stepped on a new-looking 128 MB USB key. I looked around to see if anyone had obviously lost it, and saw nothing. So I carried it home, checked the contents, and found a resume with a name and address, indicating that the owner was a York undergrad. I e-mailed said undergrad, telling her I had her USB key and asking where I could drop it off for her. 48 hours later...and no response. Quoi? Huh? When I lost my USB at the beginning of the year (along with almost all my notes) I wanted to stab myself and could not believe that some idiot had found the flash drive in a USB port in a computer in the law library, not 6 feet from the circulation desk, chock-a-block full of identifying info, and decided "Hey, score, I'm going to keep this!"
And now when I try to do someone a favor I was denied, I get nada.
Last Saturday the Toronto Star had an interesting article on the gradual decimation of the civil rights of the Bahá'í in Egypt. Wikipedia has a summary here, and everyone and their brother is pimping this blog. It reminded me of Pakistan's Ordinance XX, targeted at Ahmadis. It's interesting--usually governments do their best to talk the talk of equity and human rights, meanwhile secretly acting or permitting the actual persecution of minorities. These are instances of the reverse: religious minorities who do not face the worst persecution, relative to other groups/places, but who have explicit laws passed against them.
The hysterical thing is that Ahmadis are not automatically considered refugees in Canada. Because there's a thin (imaginary?) line between outlawing a religion and outlawing core elements of its practice. Apparently. *rolls eyes*
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Sunday, April 01, 2007
First of all, apologies for the sketchy posting of late. We're moving on to the wholly-crap-I-have-two-term-papers-an-exam-and-job-applications portion of the year, and posting goes down a little, in the priority department--this is hilarious, because all of my other procrastination techniques get ramped right up.
Today is April Fools' Day, a.k.a. my most hated of all days. The first person to "prank" me will get maimed. I'm not sure why I hate it so much (the collective mean-spiritedness?) but Wikipedia claims the name for it is Aphrilophobia...unless that's an April Fools' joke. K
However, I must admit that the English Main Page made me smile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
I've been dying to blog about the British naval personnel being held in Iran, but frankly, it's all politics and posturing. Here's the BBC timeline (in maddeningly reverse chronological order). More helpful is this summary of the legal issues at hand. Long story short, a lot depends on whether they were in Iranian territorial waters, although even if they were, ships have a right of peaceful passage.
As far as I'm concerned, the only real question is: has Iran finally and irrevocably lost its mind? Do they think they're speaking truth to power or some similar malarkey? Do they even remember the last time they took hostages?