Getting Married

When you ‘get married’ you are entering into a legal contract. You might be doing a few other things (promising your love to someone, making a deal with a god), but you are most certainly entering into a legally binding contract with another person. There are rights due to and responsibilities incumbent upon people who enter into a marriage contract. Some of these have to do with money, some have to do with children, some have to do with sexual services, and some have to do with other things.

What I find so extremely odd is that even though well over 90% of all people in the USA and Canada get married, almost none of them read the terms of the contract before they sign. (Most people find out about these terms only when they want to break the contract.) Probably because the contract isn’t presented when their signatures are required.

Although this begs the question ‘Is the contract, therefore, still binding?’, the more interesting question is ‘Why isn’t it presented?’

What Went Wrong with Political Correctness?

My guess is that it started well enough, as sensitivity: people realized that terms such as ‘crippled’ and ‘retarded’ had gathered too many negative connotations, had become insults; so they replaced them with new words such as ‘physically challenged’ and ‘mentally challenged’ – words that, because new, would be free of such slant.

This linguistic reform became called, I suggest, ‘political correctness’ – perhaps by people (men?) who couldn’t say (let alone be considered) ‘sensitive’.

From there, Read the rest of this entry »

Appropriation or Imagination?

Two poems of mine have been published in a journal dedicated to “the Black experience”. An audio piece of mine has been aired on Native radio programs. I am neither Black nor Native. Had this been known, I suspect some might have accused me of cultural appropriation.

It’s an interesting idea, but Read the rest of this entry »

Rising above Natural Selection

We need to rise above natural selection. Otherwise, as a species, we will continue to become dumb and dumber.

Who has the family of five? Not the physicist or philosopher. She’s chosen not to have any kids. And not the biologist or sociologist. He stopped at two.

And who’s having the family of ten? The people in ‘developing’ countries who either don’t have access to contraception, let alone a grade twelve education, or who subscribe to some indefensible religio-cultural belief about family.

How do we rise above natural selection? That’s the question no one wants to ask. Because the answer is so clear. And so awful.

But not nearly as awful as a species of idiots.

Philosophy – Misunderstood

I think philosophy is one of the most misunderstood subjects. That it took so long to become a high school course, I think, attests to this. Even within academia, however, there seems to be confusion. Two PhDs expressed surprise at the title of my masters’ thesis in Philosophy (“The Issue of Consent in Sex and Sexual Assault”); both seemed to think that philosophy was stuff like ‘If a tree falls and no one’s there, does it make a sound?’ or ‘Does the table really exist?’ Philosophy is that. But not, at all, only that. Read the rest of this entry »

Libraries: what are they and so what?

So I was working in my local public library the other day – well, trying to work. I was distracted by the kid on the computer next to me who was playing a computer game. My first point. Is it appropriate for kids to be allowed to play computer games on the computers in public libraries? I suggest that libraries are repositories of knowledge that people either peruse to borrow or access on-site.[1] Given that, playing computer games should not occur in a public library. Libraries aren’t entertainment centers. Yes, perusing and accessing knowledge can be fun. But that doesn’t mean that that which is fun is necessarily perusing or accessing knowledge.

Furthermore, Read the rest of this entry »

The Illegality of Assisted Suicide

Let’s say assisted suicide is illegal because it’s often a tragic, premature, perhaps even ill-informed, death. But so is unassisted suicide.

And there are alternatives to assisted suicide – better pain management, for example, or counselling. Same goes for unassisted suicide.

Assisted suicide violates our social values, our respect for life. Yeah, well. And yet unassisted suicide is legal because ‘It’s your life’. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to Summer People Everywhere

This is not “a recreational paradise” or “a summer playground”. This is our neighbourhood.

Those labels are marketing ploys used by real estate agents and business owners eager to make money on sales. They do not speak for us. We live here; they do not.

Many of us have lived here for five, ten, twenty years. Half of us are retired; half of us still work. We live here because we want to live on a lake in a forest. We love to look out at the water and see the sun sparkle, the moonlight shimmer. We love to hear the birds and see the squirrels at our feeders; we stand in awe when we see the occasional moose or bobcat. We sit out in the evening and look up at the starry sky. We open our windows at night to hear the loons as we fall asleep. We love the peace and quiet; we bask in the solitude.

So when you ‘summer people’ come here on the weekends and do whatever the hell you want, of course we consider it an invasion. And of course we want our neighbourhood back.

When you come here, you’re not leaving the city and driving to a place where you can ‘let loose’ – you’re simply leaving your own neighbourhood and entering ours.

When we have asked, politely, that you not drive so fast in your pick-ups, we were told we don’t own the road. (And to prove it, you sped up as you passed us, spraying gravel in our faces.)

When we have asked, politely, that you not come so close to us on your seadoos, you have screamed at us “You don’t own the fucking lake!”

True enough. But this is not a public campground: it is not empty before you arrive, it does not exist solely for your pleasure, it is not empty when you leave. Did you really think no one lives here?

Right. Okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics in Government: The Problem with Representation

Long ago and far away, I was one of several high school students to participate in a Federal-Provincial Government Simulation. Each of us took on the role of a provincial or federal minister and met for three days of plenary sessions, committee meetings, and caucuses.

I was the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, and I remember well the instructions of our Prime Minister: be vague; don’t commit yourself to anything; if you don’t know what they’re talking about and have never heard of it before, tell them they’re out of order; constantly assure them with such phrases as ‘We will consider that’, ‘You have our support’, and ‘That will be discussed at a later date’ – in other words, don’t say ‘I don’t know’, ‘That’s a good point’, or ‘This is a weakness with our policy, any suggestions?’. I was to represent and defend the federal government’s position. Period. (That and always disagree with the opposition’s position.)

I did my job well. And I guess because so many others did the same, it was three days of go-nowhere achieve-nothing head-butting and face-saving. Any strategizing at caucus was not to solve a real problem, but simply to protect ego: insist, and be confident about it, that our way is the best way. Obviously there weren’t any real discussions.

I went away disillusioned and discouraged. But I realize now that it was a political simulation, not a government simulation.

Then again, who am I kidding: after reading one Hansard or watching one televised parliamentary session, I knew it was a government simulation. So my question is, how did government ever get mixed up with politics? Read the rest of this entry »

Baby Androids

It finally dawned on me after reading one too many ‘failed android’ stories. I can’t remember whether it was sci-fi or AI, but suddenly I saw the problem: they always try to create an adult without a childhood.

If it weren’t for Mary Shelley, I’d be tempted to put the blame on our sexist society: leave it to the men to ‘forget’ childhood, to forget that we don’t come out of the womb fully formed, to forget that we are as much a product of our nurture as our nature. After all, the most men aren’t responsible for it, they don’t participate in it, they don’t work at daycares, they don’t teach elementary school.

You want to create an android? An artificial life form that can think and feel, that can respond to questions, to situations, like an ordinary human being? Then create a baby android. One with the capacity to learn, to benefit from experience, to grow, to develop. In fifteen or twenty years, eureka!