Sweeper: Authoritarianism’s New Man

My discussion group and I mainly focused on the article regarding Japanese athletes and the Olympics. We discussed the implications of gender norms, particularly masculinity. We also discussed. This discussion came in a context of looking at expressions of homoeroticism and feelings about homosexuality in class.

I think that one of the major points that we discussed was the relationship between masculinity and sports. We touched on the fact that sports highlight examples of virile and powerful masculinity. In relation to homosexuality, this figured in the fact that from what we saw in the readings and in class it was more okay to be gay so long as that person was assertive and virile, and not passive.

This weeks topics really emphasized that a perception of a man or woman as more feminine meant that they were seen as weak. We talked about the women’s volleyball team as being required to overcome their feminine bodies in order to be successful. In general there was an idea that it was necessary to overcome the limits of your body in order to be seen as strong. We saw this as correlating with a sense of honour or duty. In relation to the Olympics, these expressions of loyalty to the state are a way to reaffirm older ideals in a new context. One of my classmates made the assertion that athletes and soldiers are similar in that their bodies are controlled by the state in these matters. Overall, this weeks discussion reflected on ideas about gender, sexual orientation, and how these related to the power and ideals of the state.

Sweeper: Gender and body language

Our group discussed if there was a difference in the treatment between males who did not conform to popular gender roles, and women who didn’t conform to feminine expectations. We also thought the gender characteristics and expectations described in the reading were not inclusive of the entire population. The Russian Gulag camps, Tokyo Olympics, and politics of homosexuality in Germany discussed in this week’s readings were all events of the twentieth century.

After watching the depictions of males in the 1935 Triumph of the Will film we raised the question of when homosexuals began to be largely persecuted in Germany. The article by Dan Healey also categorized males and females in Russian gulag prisons into four main groups of dominant and submissive females and males. Healey also writes about men having feminine qualities and women having masculine qualities which relates to the question raised in class about how someone could hold masculine qualities if they are not male. Ideas about the body and expectations of gender behavior were  common themes this week. The stories from 1964 Tokyo Olympics were an interesting example of how athletes were taught and encouraged to train their bodies and how their performance would bring pride for the nation. It encourages us to compare the current olympics in Korea and the different athletes from over 200 countries.

You’re Either With Me, Or Against Me: the Death of Healthy Debate Within The Modern Era of Mass Misinformation

Every morning I like to lay in bed reading the news of the day, enjoying the peace and quiet of my apartment before begrudgingly forcing myself out of bed to face the chaos of the outside world. I usually avoid scanning over the comments on these articles as they are often a place void of healthy debate and mostly full of immature tactics such as name-calling. Recently, I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t be ignoring what these people are saying. It demonstrates how much trouble we’re really in. To my dismay, the art of the healthy debate is dead.

My pessimism is generated not only from what is being discussed in the news, but how it’s being discussed by the public. From personal experience, it seems that this kind of toxic discussion is not only present in comments on articles online but has made a home in many other parts of political discussion. It appears both ends of the political spectrum, the left and the right, are alienating themselves. This “us-versus-them” dynamic is creating an aggressive political climate that is lacking constructive debate over policy.

People assign themselves as “left or right”. Then, rigid like the roots of a tree, “plant” themselves on one side of the political fence and refuse to move (all the while cursing those on the other side). In their unwillingness to allow their world view to be challenged by obtaining information from varied sources, people have made themselves vulnerable. Many people don’t demand better policies as they only care about the party itself. Blind faith has allowed citizens to fall into the popularity trap. It doesn’t matter what the right does because it’s not left, and vice versa.

Fake News Image

image source: HTTP://WWW.PHILLY.COM/PHILLY/OPINION/SIGNE/20161204_DAILY_SIGNE_CARTOON_12_04_16.HTML

Sure, politics has always been deeply dividing as a person’s political beliefs are often a large part of who they are. And true, disagreements over major political opinions have often created friction – but this over-aggressiveness seems to be preventing actual progress and change. But why is this occurring? Has this always been a consequence of democracy? Is this a recurring cultural phenomenon that has been placed under a magnifying glass by social media – and the ability to comment, sometimes anonymously, on news articles?

In their book, Liars! Cheaters! Evildoers! – Demonization and the End of Civil Debate in American Politics, Tom de Luca and John Buell discuss the rise of malice in current American political debate. They state that the growing divide between the left and right has its roots in the 60s. The Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War ear have had a major impact on political discourse. Minority groups have been gaining a platform on the political front and are challenging the historically “conservative” way of life.

The rise of movements like Black Lives Matter, the increase in LGBTQ rights, and a more sexually free and racially diverse Western society is pushing previous boundaries. This seems to have increased fear on both sides of the political spectrum: those who fear that their way of life is being threatened, and those who believe their rights are being denied by allowing the current way of life to continue. It doesn’t help that both sides are being radicalized by one another (If you support BLM you hate white people! If you support Trump you’re a bigot!).

I believe we are reaching a boiling point as society is coming to terms with the fact that these extremes cannot coexist. This paranoia has caused aggressiveness out of desperation, and this desperation has eroded the ability to see the “other” as a fellow human with a difference of opinion and unique perspective on life.

So where do we go from here? How can we create better political discourse if now all the other side has to do is scream “fake news” when they don’t like what they read? Is it possible for people to view political matters through an impartial lens, one that isn’t clouded by race or “left” and “right”? Many people are willingly keeping themselves in a bubble consisting of only information from their end of the political spectrum – how do we pop that bubble? How do we restore the art of healthy debate in modern society? If we can dissolve the tendency to reduce each other down to simply “left” or “right” stereotypes and attempt to look at the larger mechanisms at work, we might be able to create a future that is more inclusive and eradicate the recent trend of demonizing the “other”.

Late first response-February 14th:

When I read the assigned articles I kept coming back to how all these topics are conceptual and therefore psychological in nature. This is best demonstrated when discussing human sexuality. Sexuality is difficult to define in a clinical context, and even more elusive in a systemic or social context. Historically, sexual behavior was interpreted though religious, or ‘moral’ institutions; the industrial revolution revealed the power of science, therefore, sexuality was discussed in terms of primitive mechanical devices (steam engines for example). During the advent of psychology in the late 1800’s sexuality was seen as a conflict between the impulsive but subconscious Id, the rational ego, and the punishing super ego, which placed a focus on female sexuality and male genitals. Ultimately Freud’s Psychodynamics would be challenged by Behaviorism, and later the cognitive revolution in the 1970’s. Until recently, academics had a tendency to medicalize everything, including sexuality and gender roles with social constructs.

Censoring Public Symbols

          The names of roads, towns, buildings and clubs surround us with stories. In some places, governments try to have power and control over public spaces and media. According to democracy public spaces should not be controlled or censored, they should be shaped through public discourse, popular opinion and competitive politics. 

          The recent removal of the statue of Edward Cornwallis in Halifax, as well as the removal of many confederate monuments in America have sparked debate over the public sentiment towards these monuments and whether or not right to remove controversial symbols of history. Edward Cornwallis was the founder of Halifax and was also known to mistreat native people. He issued a notorious proclamation in 1749 which gave a reward for killing Mi’kmaq people.  Many people have called for the removal of these monuments due to their dark history, however many others feel these monuments are historical pieces of art and the way they have once been presented to the public is an important part of the story.

           The goal of history is to create the most holistic understanding possible in order to understand the circumstances of our present and future. In a way, the removal of monuments could send a message that these events should be remembered or memorialized in a different way.  The statues and their stories do not disappear when they are moved. Some monuments are moved to a new space where they can be re-contextualized, however some are stored away from the public eye. Is removing public monuments really the best way to appease public controversies? Like any government project, the removal and relocation of monuments is a costly affair. Perhaps it would be more positive to invest in the writing of wider and more holistic stories which address controversies. Or perhaps invest funding into modern groups and organizations to improve the rights and well being of citizens, especially those who have been mistreated.

            What is interesting in some cases such as Edward Cornwallis is that the monuments are being moved out of respect and in response to public outcry. The destruction sentimental belongings, buildings, homes, artifacts and monuments of nations around the world has been a common event in history. The National Capital commission has decided to take this statue down to avoid vandalism and violence. Ideally, critical and inclusive history would be easily accessible to all members of the population. The actors and events of history should speak for themselves, and people will continue to judge them based on their own moral standing. 

         Carleton University (CU) is named after Guy Carleton. Carleton came from Ireland to serve the military in British North America. He participated in gruesome warfare that killed many people, and trained other people to kill and conquer the enemy, for the ‘greater good of the nation’. In popular history written by the British empire, he is not condemned as a murderer, his memory is romanticized as working and sacrificing for the nation and the empire. The purpose of monuments is not only to celebrate the positive parts of history, but also to pay respect to those who have suffered, and to remember stories so we can avoid future suffering.

         When reading about Egerton Ryerson on the government funded website Historica Canada, the fact that the Ryerson University of Toronto, Ontario has been called to be renamed by activists is mentioned in the first paragraph. Egerton Ryerson was born in 1803 in upper Canada and was a methodist minister who is known as one of the founders of the public education system in Ontario. Students and activists have called for renaming of the school due to Ryerson’s involvement in the development of the residential school system. Does Carleton’s University’s name face a similar threat?

          Carleton lived over 200 years ago, yet his name still appears in hundreds of books, schools, towns and parks all across the country. Despite complicated and controversial history of the Guy Carleton, CU stands as strong and proud institution, while bearing the name of someone who participated in causing great and inhumane suffering. The truth is, not everyone knows where Carleton University got it’s name from or who Guy Carleton is. Perhaps this means the University could make a Guy Carleton history project to show students the history behind the name they wear. As time passes the places and institutions named after Carleton will bring new legacies and memories to his name. For many students, the name Carleton does not represent a British soldier, it represents passionate professors, classmates and friends. 

First response: Mind, Body and Soul

What’s interesting about these articles in relation to some of the previous articles read in this course is the focus on the individual in relation to the collective. There were three distinct readings that highlighted the three different areas of the body; soul, body and mind, that can be used by populist regimes to build power.

The first was through sexual orientation, which highlights soul. This article highlighted how scientists and psychologists tried to explain homosexuality as different from the norm in Germany to justify their isolation.

The next was specifically through the trainability of the body, as was highlighted with the Tokyo Olympics article. Here, there is a connection between the trainability of the body to compete and the ability to train the body in the need to fight is prevalent.

Finally, there was the willpower, which I equated to the mind. This is the ability to shape one’s thinking in aordane with other principles. As shown with the Romanian example, they used the influence and way of thinking of the Germans and Italians to shape their own fascist ideals.

Furthermore, what is interesting about these three principles being shown is lear masculinity. This demonstrates something that was shown in the first week of class, this medieval principle of a male dominated power means. If the ideal in a society is male dominated, than according to this populist principle, it would be easier for every other person along the gender spectrum would essentially be cast out.

In my opinion, this is where the principles of fascism and populism converge. When we see interactions on an individual level, the impact is much more personal and therefore more effective when it comes to control.

The Reality of Reality: Omarosa Manigault on Celebrity Big Brother

Since the explosion of reality television at the turn of the 21st century, they become perceived as a lighthearted form of entertainment lacking in any credibility whatsoever. However, with the election of reality star Donald Trump, reality shows have become more intertwined with politics than ever before. This is certainly evident with the appearance of Omarosa Manigault, former Director of Communications at the White House Office of Public Liaison, on Celebrity Big Brother.

Although this is the first American celebrity season, Big Brother has been on the air in the USA since 2000. The premise involves contestants being locked in a house under 24/7 surveillance. Every week they compete and one contestant is evicted, with the last remaining contestant winning a cash prize. Although the show has had its share of controversy (see: Big Brother 15 racism controversy), casting a celebrity with such a publicized political background is very new for the show. This has brought new interest, but also new problems of using a reality show as a source of political news.

Last week, news broke about a conversation Omarosa had in the house with fellow contestant Ross Mathews. In it, she described the current state of the White House, stating “it’s bad” and “It’s not going to be okay”. She has since warned fellow contestants that if Vice President Mike Pence became president, they would be “begging for the days of Trump” as Pence “thinks Jesus tells him to say things”.

The public has reacted to these claims with both concern and outrage on both sides of the political spectrum.

There are three main ways of looking at these statements: 1) she’s lying as part of the game, 2) she’s exaggerating, using the show to get personal revenge or 3) she’s telling the truth.

In my opinion, the reality is a combination of all three.

First of all, one has to remember that although Big Brother has 24/7 cameras, it is fundamentally a competition show.

Unlike U.K. version, the public has little impact on the game; essentially meaning only the other contestants matter. It is actually closer in format to Survivor in that lying is imperative for success. It it no coincidence that the most prolific players are noted primarily for being deceptive.

Therefore, the very nature of the reality show makes it a not very credible source. What is said on Big Brother is not the modern Watergate, considering the contestants signed up for the show and are aware of the cameras. It is more comparable to a traditional televised interview, except if the interviewee were also trying to compete with the interviewer.

Omarosa, a veteran of The Apprentice, is no doubt savvy to the gameplay aspect of Big Brother. Her only real chance in the game is to distance herself from Trump. The fact that her audience in the first conversation was Ross Mathews (of Rupaul’s Drag Race) who explicitly stated he didn’t understand people who support Trump, only supports the theory that she said it to play the game.

However, as reality show veteran, she must also be very aware of the consequences of such remarks. She may be currently isolated, but from her personal experience, she must know how one comment can ignite a firestorm. There is no doubt her remarks have done this.

Regardless of her intent, in the wake of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury her comments have gained traction to the point of even being addressed in White House press conferences. Once released from Big Brother, she has to defend what she said. Would she really risk her reputation over a lie in a reality show? I’d argue no.

While her comments certainly serve the purpose of gameplay and may be an exaggeration due to her uneasy relationship with the Trump administration, I don’t think she would go all in on such comments if they did not have at least some truth to them. The reality show context complicates the use of her comments as a source of information, but that does not mean they are completely invalid. Rather, in the era of “fake news,” we should just be even more careful to evaluate new sources of information than ever before.

North Korea uses unified Olympic hockey team as propaganda against the US: Op/Ed

This week in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, North and South Korea’s joint women’s hockey team will play, marking the first ever unified Korean team. After months of negotiation between both North and South Korea, this symbolic gesture is a diplomatic push by the North to ease tensions after a year of growing fears and war rhetoric.

While this gesture is meant to relieve pressure over North Korea’s nuclear weapon programme, we are seeing the presence of anti-unification protests in Seoul. Protesters worry that the show of unity will threaten South Korea’s democracy, and that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un is only using the Olympics to politically advertise the two nations at peace. However this gesture is no more than an opportunity for North Korea to create a wedge between South Korea and the United States.

The Olympics offer North Korea a unique opportunity to boost its propaganda, and create an alliance with the south, making it more difficult for the US to continue their military threats.

To fully understand the gravity of this decision it’s important to look at why North and South Korea were separated in the first place.

Imperial Japan ruled over Korea from 1910 until 1945, when they were forced to surrender after World War II. Korea became a victim of the Cold War as it was divided along the 38th parallel, with US troops occupying the South, and the Soviet Union occupying the North. On June 25, 1950 North Korea launched a surprise attack on the South, starting the Korean War that would last three years, and cause US intervention. When an armistice was finally reached in July 1953, 2.5 million people had died. Since then, tensions between North Korea and the United States remain high, especially between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s use of the Olympics as a political tool is not a new tactic. In 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In reaction to this, Pyongyang boycotted the 1984 California Olympics in solidarity with the Soviet Union.

Domestically, North Korea has used the Olympics as a propaganda tool for decades. They began competing in the Winter Olympic Games in 1964, and the Summer Olympic Games in 1972. They have earned 56 medals in total, 16 of them gold. However, sporting events in North Korea are almost always shown at a later time, so that the government can choose to only broadcast favourable games. When North Korea is not in a favourable position, the results are often never broadcast and the population left in the dark.

The unification of Korea is highly unlikely at this time due to cultural, historical and economic circumstances. Therefore this display is merely a show from North Korea to the US. This should come as no surprise from the vastly unpredictable country. North Korea’s radical nationalism and fascination with violence as a political strategy is an example of how fascist regimes are a danger. North Korea, as well as many other former fascist countries such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, have used propaganda as a political tactic. If the vital US ally South Korea begins seriously talking with North Korea, the US administration may be forced to soften their position on North Korea policy, even though the two countries are far from becoming a union. While Kim Jong Un seems to be offering olive branches to his neighbours, he makes no effort to show signs of denuclearization. Therefore, while spectators may cheer on the unified Korean athletes, it’s important to note the true political background of the situation.

Wage Hike – The wrong way to do the right thing?

For many Canadians the wage hike comes as a much needed relief – It represents affordable housing, and for those of us who live paycheck to paycheck, every dollar counts. Why wasn’t this done sooner, and why would anyone oppose this?

While every dollar counts, others are counting the dollars. According to a July study by The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 34 percent of Ontario’s smaller businesses would consider relocation or closure in response to the increase.

For these businesses, tight profit margins force expenditure cuts wherever possible. In their view, Ontario is becoming an unnecessary expense – a cross too heavy to bear.

However not all who oppose the wage hike, oppose wage hikes – many critics of Kathleen Wynne’s ‘full steam ahead’ approach, are misconstrued – they want progressive wages, not ones full of steam.

There is merit to this point – the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis found that a more gradual wage increase over a 5 year period would put fewer jobs at risk. Mitigating job risk should not be overlooked – The Bank of Canada estimates as many as 60,000 employment losses from the wage increase.

A 5 year gradual implementation would have afforded the economy time to adapt. Rather, it now faces an unprecedented single wage increase. Was this wage increase rolled out too fast?

Absolutely, but it was baffling to me why Kathleen Wynne, our Premier since 2013, would neglect the opportunity to get an early head start on a more gradual implementation.

According to Mike Crawley in a CBC article, Wynne previously supported inflation based nudging of the minimum wage – she saw it as “a really good process …. That actually depoliticizes the increases to the minimum wage.”

In those days a “predictable and sustainable” increase of the minimum wage were very important to her – what changed?

Well the wage increase did not come too early, nor did it come too late – It came just on time. On January 1st, the minimum wage became 14 dollars an hour, and is promised to raise to 15 by next year. An amazing coincidence – The minimum wage hike comes right before an election. Evidence suggests a gradual hike would have been less turbulent for the economy – but that would have been inconvenient for Kathleen Wynne.

She compromised the implementation of a 15 dollar minimum wage – A wage that many of her most ardent critics do not necessarily disagree with. She did it for political expediency, and while the Progressive Conservatives are hampered by scandal, it is the perfect time to capitalize on the jewel of her campaign.

 

Modern Fascism and Socailism

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the idea of any major Western society choosing to adopt large-scale socialist policies, or any policies that fall left of the particular county’s ideas of neoliberalist capitalism, has felt unlikely. Although it is certainly debatable whether the Soviet Union even constituted a socialist or communist society, it was seen largely in the West as the epitome of Marxism, socialism, and left-wing politics as a whole. And so the idea of seeing these political ideologies rise in the West, particularly in the United States, the largest cultural influencer in the West, has seemed unlikely. In saying this, following the Second World War, it would have seemed crazy to imagine a similar ideology to what they just fought against would arise in the United States and the rest of the West, but it is completely legitimate to accept the ‘alt-right’ as a form of neo-fascism. If a form of fascism can rise following the Second World War, the Cold War shouldn’t stand in the way of a rise of socialism, especially considering far-winged emerging ideologies are often met with a rise of a contrasting ideology.

The Cold War was very much seen as a battle between both political and cultural ideologies. While the Soviet Union and the United State always portrayed the USSR as a socialist society and a self-proclaimed dictatorship of the proletariat, it truly was more of an authoritarian government that operated in state capitalism, particularly following the rise of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s. The dichotomy between American and Soviet societies created a significant resentment, particularly in the United States, towards socialism and other left-winged political ideologies. This resentment largely remains with those who grew up with it, but with the active population becoming ever-more populated with people who did not live during the Cold War, sympathy for these ideologies has risen.

While there certainly was some sympathy for Nazi Germany and their practices before, and presumably some after the Second World War, it is safe to say that fascism and Nazism were not well regarded in the West following the War. Despite this, seven decades later, there arses likeminded ideologies, both in Europe and North America, that can be considered modern versions of these WWII ideologies. While these people would still have likely grown up with an overall resentment towards fascists and Nazis around them, they did not experience or feel any direct affects from the War and the harm in which these ideologies directly affected. While there certainly are differences between the ways socialism and fascism were seen following the Cold War and Second World War respectively, there are similarities in the ways they can reappear in the public mindset, with younger people that didn’t perceive any negative experience from these ideologies.

In the past, a rise in a far-winged ideology has often been met with a rise in a contrasting far-winged ideology to oppose it. During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the Spanish Military, backed by a series of right-winged and far-right political parties, preformed a coup d’état on the Spanish government, which at the time was made up mostly of socialist and communists. The population was divided politically, with the backers of the military largely being fascists, and their opposers being backed largely by socialists, communists, and anarchists. Today’s West and 1930s Spain are most definitely very different places, but it is clear that these ideologies rose in opposition of the other. While fascism and socialism certainly aren’t polar opposite ideologies, and so a rise in a form of neo-fascism wouldn’t necessarily result in the rise of a neo-socialism, an overall rise in far-right ideologies could certainly result in an overall rise in farther-left ideologies, including socialism.

While in the many year during and since the Cold War many nations have instituted socialist or socialist-esque policies, its large-scale institution in the West has largely fallen out of favour. But, with the rise in youth who didn’t live during the Cold War and the rise of a somewhat contrasting ideology in the alt-right, socialism could rise to prominence in the West again.