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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

KONY 2012

March 8th, 2012 3 comments
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If you’ve yet to view the 30 minute video called KONY 2012, then you’re perhaps one of the few.  In just 72 hours, this video by the charity group Invisible Children has gone viral and introduced to millions of people the name Joseph Kony.  The film is riveting and eye-opening.  It also speaks to the power of technology and social media in particular.

I for one, intend to support the cause – because I believe that we are part of a global community and that in order to make this world a better place we have to care about what happens not just in our backyards, but in the backyards of our fellow human beings on the other side of the planet too.

This campaign is innovative, bold and may just prove to millions of people that when we work together we can make the world a better place.

Interested in learning more about Invisible Children and KONY 2012?  Visit the Web site.

And watch the video:

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The Common (and not-so-common) Sense Etiquette of Public Transit

November 9th, 2011 2 comments
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A few months ago I became a regular public transit user. As is the case in many big cities, our buses are overcrowded and, at times, woefully behind schedule. In my few short months as a transit user, I’ve quickly adapted to the often uncomfortable conditions and I’ve learned a few things about public transit culture and etiquette.

Recently, there have been several videos surfacing showing some deplorable behaviour by the drivers employed to chauffeur the commuter masses in our nation’s capital. Commuter videos have captured cellphone use while driving, paperwork being completed while driving, and the most recent incident involving an expletive verbal assault on an autistic passenger. Clearly, these are some serious infractions that need to be investigated; however some of the public has been quick to vilify all bus drivers, and frankly I think this is just plain wrong.

Public transit drivers have a difficult job when they have to deal with hundreds, if not thousands of people on the move. It would behoove those who are quick to lash out at all drivers to remember that some passengers make their job even more difficult. While I don’t condone the aforementioned infractions, I think we all need to take a step back and look at what we as individuals can do to make public transit a more pleasant experience for everyone.

I’d like to suggest some common sense (and maybe some not-so-common sense) etiquette for passengers of public transit.

  1. Unless you’ve paid for two fares, you get only one seat. Sure, if the bus is empty feel free to put your bags on the seat next to you; however, be prepared to remove those bags as the seats fill up.
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  3. Courtesy/Priority seating is meant for passengers that may have difficulties standing for long periods of time. If you’re occupying a seat near the front of the bus and someone gets on the bus that requires the use of the seat – MOVE! Nothing ruffles my feathers more than seeing a young, able-bodied passenger completely ignore this common courtesy.
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  5. Be aware that odours you emit affect those around you. Whether it’s the lack of personal hygiene or the overabundance of perfumes and colognes, how you smell impacts other passengers. Maybe it results in mild discomfort due to your noxious odour, but for some it has far greater implications such as allergic reactions. Overcrowded transit results in crossing the boundaries of personal space, so be kind to those around you and tone down the perfume (and remember to brush those pearly whites before leaving the homestead).
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  7. The buses and trains are not a garbage can. Question: Would you toss food on your floor at home? By the end of the day, most public transit vehicles look like the morning after a frat party. Seriously, folks – use a garbage can. Can’t find one? Then take the garbage off the bus with you and find a proper receptacle to put it in. Think it’s a harmless act? Not only do rolling juice bottles create a safety hazard on an over-capacity bus, but our taxes pay people to clean up after your mess.
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  9. Don’t block the exits. Yes, it’s pretty difficult not to block an exit on an overcrowded bus, so have some common sense to move when the bus stops so that departing passengers can exit quickly. This is not only courteous; it helps to keep transit on schedule.
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  11. Turn down the volume. I’m less concerned about that fact that your hearing is going to be completely shot by the time you are forty, than I am by the fact that I’m subjected to the siren calls of Celine Dion at 7:30 in the morning. Enough said.
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  13. Tone down the language and your voice. It’s completely unnecessary for me to be able to hear every word of the conversation at the front of the bus, when I’m sitting at the back of the bus. Furthermore, the use of colourful language isn’t necessary to get your point across. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear you say those words, then don’t say them on the bus. Chances are someone else’s grandmother is on that bus, so extend the same courtesy you would to your own matriarch.
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  15. Be respectful to other passengers and your driver. Think of all the behaviours you wouldn’t want perpetrated on you and then do the opposite. Don’t like the grumpy looks of most commuters? Try getting on the bus in a pleasant mood and smile when someone makes eye contact. Be polite. It goes a long way to establishing a pleasant commute.
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  17. Don’t distract the driver. This means stay behind the designated line so as not to obstruct the driver’s view and try to avoid unnecessary conversation with the operator of the 12 tonne metal box on wheels you’re riding in. Transit operators are professional drivers, but a distraction at the wrong time can have fatal consequences.
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  19. Thank your driver. Sure there are a few bad apples in the bunch, but the majority of drivers are professional, conscientious, and polite. Transit operators are providing a service that is invaluable to your city. Sure, it might not have been the most pleasant ride, but drivers have a lot of distractions to deal with, including those both inside and outside their vehicles. Distractions that they often don’t have control over. While you are in their vehicle, your life is in their hands. So, take a moment and thank them for getting you safely to your destination.
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I’m sure there will be dissenters out there who will insist I must be in cahoots with some transit union (or married to a bus operator). Fact is – I’m not. I’m just a gal who commutes, and who has observed some very unbecoming behaviour of passengers – and, yes, some drivers. Given the recent onslaught of media coverage concerning drivers’ behaviours, and the subsequent backlash from the public – I’d like to encourage every transit user to take a moment and evaluate their own behaviour before they start pointing fingers to the operator behind the wheel. If we learn to be better passengers, we’re bound to encourage better drivers.

M. xo

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The Haunted History of Halloween

October 29th, 2011 No comments
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Halloween is my favourite time of year.  At no other time of the year can you completely alter your ego, and be encouraged to do so.  In addition to the identity shifting fun that can be had by kids and adults alike, the natural world is also shifting.  Gone are the hot humid days of summer- replaced by the slow fall into winter’s slumber.  We watch as the landscape transforms in dramatic ways – sometimes from a cornucopia of colour to a stark white overnight.  Visually, at least in my part of the world, it’s the season of dramatic transformation.  As if nature is making a grand statement before the long sleep of winter – lest we forget her majesty.  It seems rather appropriate that we engage in this rite of transformation called Halloween.  Why exactly do we shift our identities and parade door to door looking for sweet treats?  The History Channel’s “Haunted History of Halloween” has your primer for this ghoulish night of transformation.  The video is approximately 45 minutes long, so bookmark this page and put it on while you’re handing out treats to the ghostly revelers.  Happy Halloween!

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Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Canadian Thanksgiving, eh?

October 8th, 2011 No comments
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It’s the start of the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada.  What makes Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday differ from the American holiday of the same name?  Aside from falling on different dates, the historical underpinnings of this celebrated occasion is markedly different too. Here’s a primer for you on the origins and rites of a Canadian Thanksgiving.  My fellow Canucks, enjoy your holiday weekend.  May it be filled with laughter, great food and warm company.  Cheers, eh! M. xo

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Is Capital Punishment Ever Justified?

September 22nd, 2011 No comments
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Two news stories caught my attention this morning.  One about the execution of convicted cop killer, Troy Davis and the other regarding the execution of white supremacist, Lawrence Russell Brewer.  Two men, two executions — yet, the discussions concerning both are very different.

Many claim (including Davis himself), that Davis was an innocent man being put to death.  There were international protests, sparking celebrities to use their star power to support a stay of execution.  In the end, Davis died at the hands of the Georgia judicial system.  Meanwhile, Brewer’s execution was met with little pleas for leniency – other than from the victim’s family who wanted Brewer’s sentence to be commuted to life in prison.  Despite the wishes of the victim’s family, Brewer met a similar fate as Davis.

In my opinion, neither of these executions should have gone forth.  Davis’ case is wrought with doubt, which clearly (to me, at least) should have led to a stay of execution.  Brewer’s case is a bit different.  His guilt is less questioned; however, the victim’s family steadfastly opposed the execution.  In this instance, I believe the wishes of the family should have been considered.

In broader terms, is capital punishment ever justified?  My belief is that in a civilized society, it isn’t.  Killing is not ‘civilized’.  Furthermore, the irony of this discussion is that justice systems in ‘civilized’ societies have a mandate to protect the rights of their prisoners.  In many cases this means suitable living conditions, access to adequate nutrition, medical care, the pursuit of higher learning, the right to vote, access to various forms of entertainment, etc.  In ‘civilized’ societies, where the death penalty exists, these rights may be granted to death row inmates.  Yet, the right to life is not.  It’s seems like a tragic irony that these institutions spend untold amounts of money keeping prisoners healthy and well that they are eventually going to kill.

Personally, I think the solution is to abolish the death penalty and simultaneously start clawing back some of the ‘perks’ enjoyed by the most hardened criminals.  I don’t believe ‘civilized’ societies should be in the business of killing.  Neither do I believe that the worst of criminals should enjoy what average, law-abiding citizens work hard to obtain (such as a university or college education or access to cable television).  Sure we must treat all people with some level of dignity, but should murderers be treated better than law-abiding citizens?  Hell, no!

For me, killing is not the best option we have in a civilized society.  Nor do we have to grant heinous criminals the good things in life that many citizens struggle to obtain.  The monsters among society should be locked up with the absolute basic necessities to ensure a long and miserable life behind bars.  No access to the internet, television, or education.  They lost those pursuits when they barbarically took another life.

Somehow, I doubt we’ve heard the last of the Davis case.  Was he innocent?  I don’t know.  The facts of the case certainly support doubt of his guilt.  That, for me, is enough to take a long hard look at capital punishment.  I also doubt that this is the first case of a potentially innocent man being put to death.  For me, that equates to murder.  In these cases, how will justice be found for the potentially innocent citizens killed by the societies meant to protect them?

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Social media and your final send off…

August 14th, 2011 No comments
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Social media is here to stay and as such it’s little wonder that sites are cropping up with inventive new angles to this trend.  A site I’ve been pecking through lately is an interesting and dark twist on the social media craze.  Mysendoff.com is a “social media site that will help you create and document your own final wishes for your own personal funeral sendoff”.  That’s right, now you can digitally document your final wishes and send them to six of your chosen family or friends so that when the time comes they’ll have all the details of your last hurrah.

Additionally, the site offers intriguing – albeit dark and a bit morbid – posts of stories and photos of the funerary variety.  There’s the post about the mourning photography museum , which offers visitors a visual pictorial of mourning and funeral rites of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Another post discusses the Scottish legend about a dog who sat loyally beside his master’s grave for over a decade.  The site also offers more practical information, such as funeral terminology and funeral products.

If you’ve got questions about the business of death, wish to document your final wishes using the latest trend, or are just darkly curious – then perch yourself on over at mysendoff.com .

 

 

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Religion in Schools

August 14th, 2011 4 comments
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Recent media stories have been aflutter over revelations that a Toronto area school is providing approximately 300 Muslim students with space for prayer every Friday afternoon.  Students congregate in the cafeteria for one hour and prayer sessions are led by an Imam who is brought into the school for this special rite.   In what has created more feather ruffling, girls are expected to take a position behind their male counterparts; and any girl menstruating is required to abstain from prayer sessions.  Additionally, non-Muslim students are not permitted to participate in the service.  The latest media reports suggest that perhaps more than one public school in the Toronto area is providing this service to its Muslim students.

There are a few things – at least to me – that are clearly wrong with this situation.  In fact, there are so many things REALLY wrong with this situation that I’m even more exasperated knowing that little is being done to resolve the issue.

Clearly, a publicly funded school board must find an appropriate balance for accommodating all students.  That accommodation should not extend to a student’s religious instruction.  The sheer diversity of religious groups within the public school system would make it near impossible to support every one of them.  There is nothing equitable about allowing one group of students to do it and not another.  Further, public schools are not in the business of religious education.  That kind of training should be extracurricular and at the parents’ discretion.

There is also something gravely wrong when a Canadian public school allows- even supports – a religious practice that clearly violates gender equality.  While I appreciate that certain religious customs deem it necessary and part of scripture to practice gender separation during prayer, I don’t believe those customs should be permitted to extend into our public school system.  All children should be treated equally in our schools and any action that counters this should be stopped immediately.

Finally, there has also been some concern about the background and history of the Imams conducting these prayer sessions.  It’s certainly a frightening notion that some of the parents interviewed had no idea who the religious instructors were or what they were teaching their children.  Where’s the transparency and accountability that is supposed to be a part of our school system?  Who hired these prayer leaders and what exactly are their qualifications?

As far as I am concerned, religious instruction has no place in our public school systems.  Truthfully, I’m surprised that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has allowed this to go on.  In the last couple decades we’ve seen public schools in Ontario steadily become more and more secular.  The Lord’s Prayer, once a mandatory start to each school day, was deemed inappropriate for a public school system comprised of multiple faiths and cultures.   Christmas and Easter events have been re-branded as Holiday and Spring festivities.  It seems to me that the TDSB is taking two steps backward by supporting prayer sessions in their schools.

Let’s be clear – public schools should be about education, not indoctrination.  It’s fine if a scholarly view of religion is offered in school; however, religious instruction should not have a place in our public schools.  Leave that kind of teaching to the parents – or better yet – let the children decide when they come of age.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, this is a very slippery slope indeed.  Once again, it appears that we’ve chosen to stand on the edge of the slope and see how far we can lean over before we slide uncontrollably down.

 

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Pastafarian wins right to wear pasta strainer as religious headgear

July 15th, 2011 1 comment
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If you’re not familiar with the term Pastafarian, then you likely haven’t heard of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The “church” was originally conceived  in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as satirical commentary in the form of an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education regarding decisions to allow intelligent design to be taught as an alternative to evolution in classrooms.  Since then thousands of people have been touched by His Noodly Appendage.

With so many people now claiming Pastafarian as their religious affiliation, it’s little wonder that certain religious rights are being challenged.  The BBC reports that Austrian, Niko Alm recently won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head as “religious headgear” for his driver’s license photo . Alm’s next crusade in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is to have the religion recognized as an official faith.

So, do you think this is taking religious freedom too far?  Or are you on the side of some who suggest this is meant as a tool to mock the religious by the non-religious?  Perhaps, you agree that the work done by followers of His Noodly Appendage is merely social commentary meant to incite discussion on religion’s place and value in society.

Inevitably, this latest win for the Pastafarians will garner more publicity for the movement and more hate mail.  Rest assured, however, that the movement isn’t going away any time soon.  I’d wager that it’s going to become more widespread and who knows, may even one day be recognized as an official faith.

Carbo Diem!  M. xo

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Marriage Equality

June 26th, 2011 No comments
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New York state recently passed a marriage equality bill giving way for same-sex couples to legally tie the knot.  So, how could this affect the tens of thousands practicing polygamy which is currently illegal?  Plural marriage has been coming out of the proverbial closet with recent news headlines, television shows and reality programming putting it in the mainstream sphere of discussion.  There are compelling arguments on both sides; however, a closer examination suggests that some of those arguments aren’t mutually exclusive to this discussion.

Many opponents to plural marriage point to the exploitation of women and children as just cause to continue outlawing the practice.  High profile cases such as the Warren Jeffs case have made sensational headlines claiming arranged under-aged marriages and various other abuses perpetrated on young girls.  Clearly, any proven abuses should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, especially in cases where children are involved.  These sensational headlines fail to discuss the fact that abuses against women and children are not mutually exclusive to polygamy.  There are plenty of documented cases of monogamous relationships in which children and women are abused.  There are also many documented cases of polygamous spouses and children who live productive, happy and healthy lives in their plural families.  Why then are prosecutors focusing on the abuses occurring within some plural relationships as inherently part of the lifestyle?  Regardless of the lifestyle, the focus should be on the abuses perpetrated.  Let’s be clear, not all polygamists commit these acts – just like not all teenagers who dress in black trench coats and listen to Marilyn Manson are going to plot to shoot their classmates.

There are also arguments that suggest that polygamy is amoral and that legislation is required to provide a social and moral compass to citizens.  Again, I question that line of thinking.  Sure, it may be immoral from a certain religious standpoint – however, there are plenty of religions that believe plural marriage is mandated by a higher authority.  Since I live in a society that was founded on Christian values I get why so many may find the idea of plural marriage a bit distasteful – but let’s also remember that we live in a secular society in which our religious ideology is supposed to be separated from the law.  And it would serve many Christians well to recall that there are numerous instances in the Bible in which various characters take more than one wife.  So, again I think this argument falls flat.  Let’s leave religion out of it – and that includes the arguments from some Fundamental Mormons that it falls under the realm of religious freedom.  Arguments that are founded on religious ideology invariably lead to a slippery slope.

Let’s look at this from a logical standpoint.  What’s inherently wrong with polygamy?  If two or more consenting adults want to commit a lifetime to one another – why not?  How can more love be a bad thing – especially where children are concerned?  I agree that the children of plural marriages aren’t given a choice in the matter, but the same is true of children who are born into a broken marriage, a single-parent home, a fundamental religious home, an impoverished home, etc.  We can’t start legislating who gets to have a family based on these ideas.  For all the abuses uncovered in these marginalized or unconventional families there are many more success stories.

Personally I think we are doing the spouses and children of plural marriages a huge disservice by not making it legal.  The non-legal spouses and children of these marriages have no recourse in cases of separation, death of one of their spouses or reporting abuse to the authorities.  I suggest the last point because I’m willing to bet that a spouse of an abusive polygamous relationship may be unwilling to go to the authorities for fear of being prosecuted themselves, simply because of their lifestyle.

There’s something clearly wrong when it’s illegal for more than two consenting adults to enter into a relationship committed to family,  love and honour – yet, a spouse of a monogamous relationship can legally step outside their commitment without fear of prosecution.  Sure, some hefty divorce bills might follow, but the cheating monogamous spouse still is afforded rights, such as still having access to their children.  The same isn’t true for plural families who face the prospect of being separated from their spouses and children or being imprisoned simply because their love extended beyond the traditional notion of family.

I think it’s time that polygamy in the Western world was brought out of hiding.  It’s the only way that society will be able to really understand it and provide adequate protections for those who choose to practice it.  By keeping it hidden, society is driving it further underground, where those who prey on the unprotected and marginalized will exploit the lifestyle for their own gain.  Let’s start having an intelligent and informed dialogue about the subject.  One that doesn’t revolve around religious ideology and sensationalized media headlines.

I believe that the foundation for any intimate relationship is based on love, mutual respect and trust.  These should be the measurements of a marriage – regardless of how many spouses you have.

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Religion as commodity

May 14th, 2011 2 comments
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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, so I’m glad that I’ve started writing it now – even though I’m not sure if it’ll be published sooner rather than later. It was a trip to the grocery store that bore the seeds of this post. In particular, a meander through the organic and health foods aisle that popped up this gem of a cereal:

 

I’ll be honest – I was very amused (hence, why I got out my phone and snapped this pic). And yet, a part of me felt that perhaps it was going a bit too far. Clearly, this cereal was targeting a very specific market. I found it curious, because by displaying this blatantly religious tone on their packaging, they were alienating a large percentage of the market. Surely, atheists, agnostics and other “free-thinkers” were just as likely to want to eat healthy as the “People of the Book”. With so many of these whole-grain, organic cereals on the market, you’d think a business wouldn’t want to alienate consumers. Perhaps, that isn’t the point though. Maybe the company has some corporate policy to provide products to a specific demographic, regardless of the effect on the bottom line (a refreshing change, indeed).

But, I digress from the point of my post…

Question: If the sacred becomes commodified, does it then fall into the realm of the profane? Religion has surely become big business and it appears that the commodification of religion is being widely accepted and even propagated. Take, for example, a line of t-shirts that combines edgy humour with religious themes.

I’ve seen these shirts worn by both extremely religious and anti-religious folks alike. So, what message is that sending? Are these items meant to attack the sacred or are they intended to revere it? Perhaps it has more to do with the idea that pretty well anything can be turned into a product for mass consumption. I’m sure some of you would agree that mass production isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Another thought – is it considered idolatrous to consume these products (strictly speaking to the religious)? Surely there will be those religious adherents that find products such as these blasphemous; however, there is another segment of religious adherents that would likely deem these products as harmless – perhaps even an homage to their faiths.

For now, I’m left thinking that the great prophets of “the Book” probably would have regarded any attempt to commodify the sacred as counter to the values of their faiths. It seems to me that once the sacred enters the realm of the profane, then it becomes regarded as ordinary. Maybe – just maybe – the commodification of religion is a reflection of our society, suggesting that the sacred may be just another average, ordinary part of our humdrum lives.

M. xo

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Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,