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Archive for August, 2012

Rob Ford with a 'Rob Ford' finger puppet

Rob Ford with a ‘Rob Ford’ finger puppet

This morning I was reading the deposition of Rob ford that has been posted to Scribd.com. Some of it reads like a classic Monty Python sketch. Here are some of the choice exchanges:

Rob Ford: “You said ‘quote’ I don’t see quotation marks in here”

Mr. Ruby (Lawyer) “Yes, I was quoting it for the record.” (pg. 7-8).

This reminds me of something out of the “Argument Clinic” sketch.

Rob Ford: “Again, I’ve got a memory in my mind, but I don’t… I can’t remember the handbook…”

Mr Ruby: “You said, ‘I have a memory in my mind.’ What is it you have in your mind?”

Rob Ford: “I can remember what I ate for breakfast this morning.” (pg.18-19).

It is amazing how little Ford remembers. He can’t even remember relatively important documents like the handbook on proper conduct. But at least he remembers what he did today to feed himself.

Mr. Ruby (Lawyer): In your affidavit at paragraph 16 you say:

“…There is no financial consequence to any of the recommendations put forward by the integrity commissioner…”

Can you explain what you mean by that?

Rob Ford: I don’t see how the City benefits from this under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Mr. Ruby: And Therefore there is no need for you to worry about a conflict, correct?

Rob Ford: I wasn’t given… I wasn’t told by legal to declare a conflict.

Mr. Ruby: I know that, but I’m trying to figure out what was going on in your head.

Rob Ford: I don’t remember what was going on in my head. I have thousands of thoughts that go through my head every day. (pg. 66-67).

So, Rob Ford can remember very little, but rest assured it is not because he is too stupid to remember, in fact, it is quite the opposite: he has thousands of thoughts go through his head every day. Of course he couldn’t be expected to remember all of them.

The whole thing is pretty funny. But to save you time in case you don’t feel like reading all 146 pages, Ford’s main contention of innocence occurs at pages 81-82.

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In any given news cycle there is likely to be a story about someone who said something or told some joke that is described as “offending” some persons. Earlier this summer there was the “rape joke” told by Daniel Tosh. This week Pam Palmater wrote about a racist joke in an Royal Canadian Legion newsletter.

Usually after such occasions the person or organization issues an apology “for offendingthe group or individual in question (or in the case Palmater describes, fails to apologize at all since “only one” person was offended).

I'm Sorry

I’m Sorry

In fact, this response is so common that Wikipedia even has an entry on it titled “The Non-Apology.” The Wikipedia article focus mainly on the apology as lacking the requisite contrition or admission that something was wrong. I think that is right, but I also want to focus on something else: the “I’m sorry I offended you” line misses one important target group for the apology.

You see, I am not so worried about those who were “offended.” Sure, it sucks to have to live in a culture that is basically a mine field waiting to explode with “humour” that reinforces one’s lesser status. But at least those who were offended recognize what was wrong with the statement. I am also worried (perhaps more worried) about those who were not offended.  As Palmater writes:

 Racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada is so ingrained that some in society can’t even identify it when they see it. (Source)

Those in the group who were not offended are the ones who really concern me because they are so blind to racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc. that they were not even able to be offended by the alleged humour. So in addition to apologizing to those groups who were “offended” by the racist/sexist/etc. “joke” I think there should also be an apology to those who were not offended.

Perhaps something along the lines of:

I am sorry my hackneyed attempt at humour reinforced ideas of racial (gender, class, etc.) superiority among those who were not offended by the alleged “joke.” I am sorry that what I said perpetuated and reinforced your privileged blindness to the racism (sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc.) so prevalent in this society…

Because in addition to hurting those who are offended and reinforcing their lesser status in a given culture, such “jokes” also have the harmful effect of reinforcing arrogance and ignorance among those who failed to see what was wrong with the “offensive” “joke” in the first place.

 

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This is one of the sillier things I have read in a while. Canada has been designing new money that is supposed to deter counterfeiters, last longer, and be more environmentally friendly in its manufacture.

New Canadian $100 Bill

An image of the new Canadian $100 bill with a woman seated at a microscope

They have also been designing new graphics for the notes. The Bank of Canada held focus groups to see what people thought of the new designs. Some people in the focus groups complained that one of the images looked like an Asian woman. The Bank of Canada decided to withdraw the notes and redesign them so they looked more “neutral.”

The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing what a spokesman called a “neutral ethnicity” for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her “Asian” features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.

“The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin,” bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes. (Source: The Financial Post)

This is ridiculous. Caucasian features do not represent ethnically ‘neutral’ features. Furthermore, it is completely impossible to put an image of a person on a bank note  without depicting an ethnic group. There is no abstract non-ethnic person that could be represented. There are only people who belong to one ethnic group or another. Caucasian people, too, belong to an ethnic group: namely the ethnic group of Caucasian people.

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This is the kind of story that Canadians love: A U.S. cop went for a walk in a park in Canada, was approached by two gentlemen asking whether he had been to the stampede yet, and felt unsafe because he did not have his gun.

Nose Hill Park in Calgary

Nose Hill Park in Calgary

The original letter is pretty funny. Wawra’s account does not make it sound like a particularly intimidating encounter. The men repeated themselves twice and then moved on looking “bewildered” when Wawra met their inquiry with a rude dismissal. Yet this was enough to make Wawra believe he was unsafe and needed a gun, since police cannot protect people all of the time. (As it turned out, the two were attempting to offer free tickets to the tourists, according to Gawker.com).

Canadians love this kind of story because it allows them to feel superior to their fearful and gun-loving neighbours to the south. Canadians want to mock this kind of story because it is unlikely that we would have felt threatened in a similar circumstance because we would have taken it for small-talk, or a typical greeting Calgarians might give one another when Stampede is on.

But that kind of fear is real among some Americans. I have several cousins who have told me that they don’t feel safe visiting me in Canada because they cannot bring their guns. My cousin from Detroit told me that he felt unsafe going to a bar in Toronto because in Detroit no one will mess with you because they assume you are carrying, while in Toronto he could not see what would keep someone from starting a fight. (Although the Crime rate in Toronto is actually much lower than the crime rate in Detroit) It doesn’t occur to my cousin that people in Toronto often won’t start a fight just because they have no interest in starting a fight and aren’t out to get each other.

My American cousins often tell me that guns make them feel “safe,” but from this side of the border it seems to me that guns actually just make them fearful.

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