When is an opinion not an opinion? Tony Dungy and Homosexuality

“That’s my opinion” is the golden gun of arguments.

Nearly impossible to counter, it is the last resort of someone who does not have the tools to win an argument, but will not concede defeat either.

If someone tells you “that’s just my opinion” and you continue arguing, they can accuse you of trying to impose your beliefs on them. Suddenly you are the didactic one, suddenly the argument is not about the issue any longer but their right to their own beliefs and that is when you know that the discussion is well and truly over.

Why do I bring this up? Because the sports world was taken over by a story concerning the first gay player drafted into the NFL; Michael Sam.

During an interview, former coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy said he would not have drafted Michael Sam; stating, “I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth… things will happen”

Okay fine. Dungy believes that as the first openly gay player in the league, there will be a media circus surrounding the player and he would not want to deal with associated distraction. I don’t agree with this as a position, but it is hardly a public denouncement of Michael Sam as a person and homosexuality as a concept.

So what’s the big deal? Well it has to do with Tony Dungy as a person.

Tony Dungy is a Christian. A Christian who has stated he “doesn’t agree with Michael Sam’s lifestyle” and that he has “traditional views on marriage.” (read: he doesn’t believe in gay marriage as an institution.)

So when this story broke, people on both sides of the issue came out of the woodwork.

Some people who have no issue with homosexuality, that support marriage equality contended that Dungy not wanting Sam on his hypothetical football team is because he is anti-gay who finds issue with homosexuality

Some people in support of Dungy claim he was looking at this purely from a football perspective and his views on homosexuality did not factor in. Furthermore, we should not judge him for his Christian beliefs or criticize his opinions on marriage equality.

Now I’m not here just to throw another shovelful of dirt on Tony Dungy, smarter people than me have already done that, I want to talk about how dangerous the nature of opinion is when it comes to these types of arguments.

 

What is an opinion?

To bastardize a common metaphor, imagine I hate mushrooms (and I do, they are a vegetable wrought in the fires of the underworld). I have decided to never eat mushrooms, and when someone tells me how great they are, that I should try them again, I am allowed to say “I do not like mushrooms” because that is simply my opinion.

That all sounds reasonable doesn’t it? I’m sure some people agree with me that mushrooms are a disgusting affront to mankind and other people believe I am wrong and mushrooms are crafted of rainbows and starbeams, but as long as we’re only talking about my preference, nobody cares that much.

But imagine I hated mushrooms so much I didn’t want anyone else to eat mushrooms, ever. I try to convince everyone else how gross they are, I push legislation limiting mushroom rights and stop mushrooms from marrying other mushrooms and you can see how this metaphor is falling apart on me.

The bottom line is that an opinion is only valid as long as it is limited to YOU. When people begin to impose their personal preferences on others at the cost of rights, freedoms and equality we are no longer talking about opinions or personal beliefs.

 

What the hell does this have to do with sports!?

This is the issue with the Tony Dungy story. Tony and all his supporters have used sentences like this;

“I’m a man of faith”

“I have Christian beliefs”

“You can’t persecute a man for his faith”

“Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion”

Supporters of these controversial positions have cunningly held onto the word “opinion”. It is much easier to defend their morally reprehensible views when they are referred to as “opinions”.

As I mentioned above, Dungy is against same-sex marriage. No matter how he says it (“I have traditional views on marriage”, “I have Christian beliefs”, “I don’t agree with his lifestyle”) he is in favor of restricting people from marriage due to their sexuality. This is not a personal opinion. This is a political position taken with the intention of limiting the rights of millions of human beings because something makes him uncomfortable.

On the Dan Patrick Show on July 23rd 2014, Dungy stated that it hurt when people said “being a Christian that I’m somehow hateful of gay people or that I am anti-gay” And yes Tony, it is unfortunate that your feelings are hurt, but can you not see where we were coming from in this situation? You say you “do not agree with their lifestyle and you have traditional views on marriage” but you are surprised people believe you are anti-gay?

Tony, you are anti-gay. You cannot claim to love Michael Sam and oppose his possession of the basic rights you enjoy. You cannot claim to disagree with a “lifestyle” that homosexuals cannot control any more than you can control being black and maintain a moral highground. You cannot impose your opinion on others and still call it an opinion.

 

What now?

When faced with this issue, supporters of said controversial opinion will fall back to the favorite political right of the bigoted; the first amendment. The issue with this right however, is that the people who consistently invoke their right to free speech have no idea what it means.

The right to free speech means that you cannot be prosecuted for your speech.

What the right to free speech does not mean is that we have to listen to you.

And it certainly doesn’t mean we have to agree with you or treat your views with respect.

Nobody will throw you in jail for saying homosexuals are an affront to god and they will all burn in hell; the Westboro Baptist Church has made that very clear

But if you believe that we have to listen to your bigoted views, that we are not allowed to disagree with the views of the man that will restrict rights to those he deems acceptable, that we cannot find fault in Tony Dungy when he tries to straddle the line of morality by claiming he is a traditionalist Christian who does not “agree” with homosexuality but is not anti-gay then you are 100% wrong.

But hey, that’s just my opinion

-WH

The Faculty Fairy Tale

We all came to McGill with a dream. That dream could have been getting a diploma from one of Canada’s best schools, or it could be finding out how many shots of Jaeger we could do before we passed out. Usually though, your university fantasy has something to do with the faculty you chose. And while I wind down my university career and prepare to be a broke wannabe writer living at my mom’s house, I’d like to go back and examine the dreams of our first year selves by faculty. So without further adieu…

Once upon a time…

In Arts  

There was a reasonably smart person. This person had subjects on which they were the authority. Renaissance politics? Check. Philosophy in the early Holocene era? You got it. This young go-getter could not be stopped when it came to debates on Russian peasant culture in the 1800s. They dominated discussions on the origins of the accordion.

When this fresh-faced first year walked through the Roddick gates (and then walked out again because the Roddick gates are not the fastest way to anything) it was with confidence that their chosen subject was the way to go.

Throughout that first year of raised hands in 400 person lectures and buying more scarves than any one person could theoretically wear, our hero grew. They got good marks, not A’s though, lets not get crazy. They impressed TAs with their fervent dedication to the 6 weekly readings; I swear one time the professor nearly remembered their name.

Someday they thought, someday I will get my degree and I will be the smartest philosopher/historian/political scientist/English-er around. And they would be, they would be able to reference authors like no other, argue ecumenical policy in 1900s like a champ.It’s just a shame that unless they decide to extend their school days, their story ends with disappointment.

They never did find their chosen career; they got a decent job in another field, at a regular company. They made okay money and lived in a decent apartment. But they never stopped hoping that someone in the 21st century would need a Philosopher, and on that day their ship would finally come in.

In Management  

There was a person who liked money. Like, really liked money. I mean we all like money but our hero in this story had a fascination bordering on fetishistic. They heard the stories, they read the books and decided that unless they were one of the chosen ones like Zuckerberg or Gates then the way to get that money was to journey through the lands of Bronfman.

Our protagonist felt important there. They wore suits when everyone else was wearing jeans. They were giving presentations while others slogged through conferences. They were cracking cases while everyone else was cracking coursepacks. They learned about money, business, how to make more money, how to be the best at handshakes, to win meetings and various other business things.

It was tough of course. But our hero had a goal. They knew that by going to three mandatory classes a day they were forging their better future. They knew that if they could survive the test of will that is Business Stats they could do anything. The riches of the world would be theirs!

Our hero got a job! It was boring and tedious and forced them to do even more school, take even more tests. But it was worth it, there were promotions to achieve, more money to acquire. Love can come later, travel is secondary, the money, that’s what’s important. This is why they worked four years in university; this is the job that leads to the job that leads to the job that leads to the job that will make them happy!

But when our hero’s story ends, it ends not with true love or a dream achieved, but with introspection and doubt. A black card in the wallet, 4 sports cars in the garage; this is happiness right? They did it! But when they look at their phone, the only numbers they see on speed dial are the upscale sushi restaurant down the block, Enzo; their personal tailor and Intimate Encounters, a *ahem* business specializing in discretion. Its not all sadness, our hero goes to sleep every night knowing they will have plenty of white collared blue shirts and double-breasted suits to keep them warm at night.

In Science

There was a person with dreams. This hero didn’t dream of money, jobs or success. That was all secondary. This time our protagonist wanted to change the world. Their heroes weren’t Gretzky or Jordan, but Salk, Tesla and Banting. To reach this dream, they ventured to the nations of Wong and Rutherford, to the newest, shiniest lands in this world of McGill University. They sought Science.

It was hard, as they knew it would be. Nobody who ever changed the world did so by slacking, but this seemed oppressively difficult. There was so much work, so much time to be spent on minutia. Our hero was not dissuaded however, they knew that success is forged in adversity; this work was necessary. They had to learn, they had to gather the knowledge necessary for their breakthroughs, but they still glanced at the calendar and wondered when their Eureka moment would come.

It got disheartening though, going into the lab at 3am to check data, sacrificing their weekends for analysis. They had been told they would see amazing things, awe inspiring experiments but all their work ever resulted in was disappointed sounding lab reports lamenting that their results didn’t match their hypothesis. Maybe it will be better when McGill springs for new equipment, I hear it’s finally going to happen next semester.

When graduation rolled around our protagonist was elated. No more restrictions from the classes! No more assignments to be marked on! It was time to truly achieve something! But the more time our hero spent in the real world the less hope they had. In the 21st century there was bureaucracy, there was corporate investment and agendas had found their way even into the scientific field. The reclusive labs of the scientific greats; home to the greatest discoveries were increasingly uncommon. And Newton had already developed Calculus.

Our hero got a good job and they made good money. While they had hoped to be the next famous scientist that children would read about and get inspired; the next Newton, Einstein or Degrasse Tyson, there’s nothing wrong with being a Lab Tech.  But every time our hero ran a sample they pined for that one in a billion chance that they would discover something incredible.

In Engineering

There was a person who wanted a job. Like really wanted a job. This hero had already heard the Arts fairy tale and wanted to dodge that like the goddamned plague- (sorry, Fairy Tale! Fairy Tale!) This hero had heard tales of those stuck in the purgatory of poor employment opportunities and they wished to avoid a similar fate.

They had examined the world they lived in and decided to embark to the lands of McConnell and Macdonald (yeah McGill really didn’t think that through) to become one of the builders of the future.

They of course had their dreams too; once our hero had dreamed of being a famous artist, then they thought they could end up on the silver screen. but they figured it was better to have a guarantee for their future.

It was hard, amongst the hardest things one can do in the world we call McGill. It took nearly all their free time, a large portion of which was dedicated to perfecting their handwriting for crib sheets.

It tested our hero’s dedication. When their friends were done their training and off having fun and pursuing their dreams our protagonist had another year of work to do. They knew however that it would be worth it in the end; they would get their job, they would make their money. The world of the future would need them.

And they were right! Their years of work paid off! They got a high paying job and never worried about their future even once. It didn’t get easier though, there’s a reason they got paid so well; the work was tough, they worked long hours and it required constant study and research to stay at the top of their field.

While our Artistic protagonist might envy the Engineer’s security and paycheck, our heroic engineer occasionally glances out the window and wonders what would have happened had they not traded their dream for security.

In Computer Science

There was a hero who learned how to code and make apps.

Everything was fine and his life was great.

Fuck that guy.

A New Modern Dictionary

(The more I read this the sillier it is, oh well – WH)

Language is evolving and we’re all getting old and out of touch. I remember my freshman years when YOLO was just a twinkle in Drake’s eye and nobody would ever describe partying as getting “turnt”. Just a few years later I am an ancient 22 and have long since given up understanding anything. However modern language has continued to evolve to the point that it resembles Aramaic to people like me and someone needs to wade through the detritus to bring understanding to those like me. Maybe we’ll foster a greater understanding across generations; maybe we will further reinforce our disdain for anyone more than 3 years younger than ourselves. I don’t know about you but I’m excited to find out which!

 

The Phrase: YOLO

Definition: You Only Live Once

How it is used: “I’m young and YOLO so yes I will – drink heavily the night before my applied corporate finance final / take drugs from that sketchy man / go home with that stranger / insult that Hells Angel I think was looking at me funny.”

What it really means: “Youth is a great excuse for acting like a stupid asshole”

 

The Phrase: #thatawkwardmoment

Definition: Hashtag used to preface a story about a socially uncomfortable situation

How it is used: “#thatawkwardmoment when you have more money than all your friends” or “#thatawkwardmoment when you have nothing to wear on a yacht in Lake Como”

What it really means: “Look at the cool thing I did. I am very cool and interesting. I have phrased this as though it happens to everyone so it doesn’t seem like I am bragging. I am bragging. I am very cool”

 

The Phrase: “Faith in Humanity Lost/Restored”

Definition: Comment (usually in meme form) on how X news story has affected user’s personal beliefs on the inherent good or evil of society.

How it is used: “This guy cut in front of me in line / was rude to someone. Faith in Humanity lost” “Wait this other guy bought presents for people at Christmas / donated money to charity. Faith in Humanity restored!”

What it really means: “My world view is very much influenced over what is on the front page of Reddit”

 

The Phrase: “Birthday Week”

Definition: A week of celebrations for the anniversary of one’s birth in place of the typical one day. Typically employed by young, upper class white girls.

How it is used: “DAY 2 OF KIMBERLEY’S BIRTHDAY WEEK BENDER. EVERYONE MEET AT THE MANSION (LOL) FOR CHAMPAGNE AND LATER WE’RE HITTIN THE CLUUUUUBS”

What it really means: “One 365th of the year is not enough attention, I require 7/365ths (1/52nd if you prefer)

 

The Phrase: Literally (as used by people 10-20 years old/idiots)

How it is used: “OMG it was literally amazing” “I literally laughed my ass off”

What it really means: “I don’t know any other adjectives”

 

The Phrase: Turnt

Definition: Drunk/high/excited/ horny/etc.

How it is used: “We’re gonna sooooooo go hard tonight, gonna get turnt up!”

What it really means: “This specific night/party/event/trip is going to be so much better than every other night/party/event/trip, so much better in fact that it requires a new adjective to describe the unbridled awesomeness”

 

The Phrase: hashtag

Definition: A tool used on twitter to organize tweets on similar subjects. Appropriated today as a method of ending a status or post with disjointed half-jokes.

How it is used: “Baking cookies today! Who likes Chocolate Chip? #domesticgoddess #cookiemonster #delicious #chocolateaddiction #dietstartstomorrow #YEAHRIGHT”

What it really means: “I believe this symbol can make otherwise inane/boring/unfunny words and interesting and hilarious. Is it working? …Like my status… please.

 

The Phrase: Twerk

Definition: Dancing primarily with one’s ass… I think?

How it is used: General-purpose description of dancing that in some way involves butts

What it really means: Dancing is hard okay guys?

 

The Phrase: Ratchet

Definition: Bad? Maybe?

How it is used: “That chick is ratchet” (Is that it? Is that what they say?)

What it really means: I have no clue

 

I have decided understanding things is overrated. But hopefully I have done something of value here. Perhaps pushed back the clock for us ancient 21 year olds time has already passed by. But for those of us who have already resigned ourselves to obsolescence we can get a good chuckle at the youth of today.

A Four Year Affair

How I fell in and out of love with Canada’s Harvard

(arguably the silliest thing I’ve written in a while, around the time that there was a protest every other week in Montreal, fun though -WH)

Note: for the purposes of this article, McGill university is personified as a woman, please feel free to substitute different pronouns as they apply to your personal preferences.

I had heard about this “McGill” character a lot throughout my senior year of high school. I had been flirting around a bit in London and Kingston but I just kept coming back to the Montreal girl. She was different, lived far away, and wore a lot of red when my high school sweetheart seemed to don nothing but various shades of blue. Everyone said she played super hard to get, you had to be the smartest, most successful to even get a shot, but I was ready for the challenge. I asked her out, she said yes and I was so happy, even though I knew I was one of about 25,000 people she was seeing on a casual basis.

Our first year together was everything I thought it would be. It was new, exciting; McGill had a wild side and we spent weeks partying. Sure I had to do a little work, but that never got in the way of the fun times. McGill was understanding; even though she lived in Montreal she never demanded I learn French, despite others’ opinions on the matter. Everything was perfect, she didn’t even judge when I indulged too heavily in the RVC cafeteria. I thought this was the beginning of a wonderful four-year relationship.

That summer I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was away from her. She had shown me the greatest times in my life, introduced me to so many wonderful people. She had expanded my knowledge, made me feel like part of something bigger than myself. I could not wait to return and continue our four-year honeymoon.

When I returned things had changed, I wasn’t angry though; I knew nothing stayed the same forever. I couldn’t live with McGill anymore; I had to get an apartment. It was just a few blocks away however so of course I could see her whenever I liked. The fun and excitement of our first days together wasn’t there anymore; she was still doing those things: scavenger hunts and writing on t-shirts, but with other people. I understood though, I needed to grow on my own as well. I still saw her every day and we still had fun times like Carnival even if we didn’t go out every night like we used to.

It was around this time I began to worry about the relationship; I was moving forward with my life but I started noticing McGill was not doing the same. She was making little effort to improve herself and even when she did it took years for anything significant to happen. I spoke to the other people who knew and loved her and they said “oh that’s just McGill, she doesn’t move at the same speed as the rest of the world”. I noticed that while McGill’s friends like McCall and Brawley were still animated and interesting, a great many of her compatriots seemed increasingly apathetic. I wish I could still tell her she’s perfect, but I don’t want to validate these bizarre choices. Though I was increasingly concerned, I stayed out of loyalty and desire to have a better future.

Now I had known from the start McGill lived in an unusual neighbourhood, while a great example of diversity there was a palpable undercurrent of tension as though a conflict remained unresolved. Maybe that was why nobody of note had moved to town in years.

Then I met the neighbours.

It seemed like every week they had some new issue, and nobody seemed to want to talk it out. No these arguments took the form of big public clashes, the kind where the parties scream through the bathroom door while everyone else slips out the door and hopes it won’t come to violence this time. Even arguments about why they argue so often end in tears.

I was apprehensive about our future; could I live in this neighbourhood where I might have to walk through anarchy to see my significant other? Was it worthwhile to be so dedicated to what seemed an increasingly one-sided relationship?

At the beginning of our fourth year together these doubts were swirling in my head with increased frequency. I never considered leaving, I knew if I could make it four years it would mean something, it would validate the time I had spent, the behaviour I rationalized. But then the neighbourhood got even worse.

People began ignoring me when I didn’t speak properly enough for them; they got increasingly touchy when something was labeled in english. I didn’t like this behaviour but I was still seeing McGill so I grinned and bore it.

But now there are new things happening in the neighbourhood, promises made are going unfulfilled, there is increasing oppression of certain people and posters are going up saying you can’t wear this here, or that there. What gives these people the right to decide these things for everyone? I put up with a lot from this relationship but I can’t keep coming back if these are the rules my 24,999 friends and I will have to deal with.

“What happened?” she calls, “Didn’t we have a good thing together?”

“I can’t keep doing it” I reply, “Not if you’re okay with all of this, not if this is how I have to live”

“I didn’t change” She whispers, “I’m the same one you fell in love with”

“That’s the problem” I respond “Don’t call me”

“Not even for Alumni Donations”

The Lowest Common Denominator

The effect of easy publication on contemporary writing

I am a writer, and like all writers, I want people to read what I write. Twenty or thirty years ago this was a truly difficult task; one had to practice for years, doggedly self publish one’s work and interview for one of only a few major print publications. It was a painstaking process that virtually guaranteed that the author was not a complete idiot, and at the very least, was committed to his or her craft.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the game has changed completely; Easy-to-create, free blog platforms have allowed anyone who so desires to have his or her own little place to publish. With the advent of the Internet, print publication saw barriers fall as well – they began to carry larger staffs while using the Internet to publish more content. The upshot of all of this is that it has become far easier than ever to get your work read.

The issue that has come as a result of this is that for every smart, insightful article today, there are one hundred manic blog posts threatening Kate Upton for dating their favorite member of One Direction. It has become desperately hard to be recognized for one’s work, and I feel therein lies the rub with contemporary writing, especially when it comes to amateur or student publication.The best way for someone to glean readership is controversy. Readers will always be drawn to a story of conflict or controversy over something comparatively boring.This is simply human nature.But though the world is fraught with issues, there will not always be a truly controversial topic on which to write.

This is where the great McGill University comes in, for McGill publications and writers are amongst the greatest in the world at overreaction – employing hypersensitivity as a tool to get more press. Everyone knows there are topics that will generate more hype than others. I am as guilty as any in this regard. I wrote my first article for this magazine criticizing the Avengers because I knew people would react strongly. When it comes to the home of the Redmen, the most ready sources of readership arise when someone accuses a McGill institution of being racist, sexist, intolerant, encouraging of debauchery, supportive of rape culture, celebrating of alcoholism or being vaguely insensitive in any number of ways.

The best example of this hysterical sensationalism is the recent send-up of engineering frosh; “Ro-dee-no”. The article criticizes the theme choices on the basis that cowboys were generally not good people, the frosh materials fail to account for transgender peoples, and accuses everyone who has ever chanted at frosh of sexual assault.Political correctness is one thing, butthis smacks of finding the 3 bullet points for an article rather than legitimate concerns over Frosh’s institutions and I find it distressing that the former takes precedence over the latter.

Now let me stop for a second and explain. My issue with these matters is not the content or topic of each, it’s the way these situations are conducted. I find it hard to believe that someone looked pictures of the General Lee and the fact that Frosh features drinking and was moved enough to write a 1000 word article. The issues raised are not important or divisive enough to be featured such, however, I do believe they are incendiary enough to provide a greater number of hits to one’s websitethan something requiring a good deal more thought.

This hypersensitivity does not truly benefit anyone besides the people whose respective egos swell as a result, but nonetheless I do understand the inclination to write on controversial matters. Every writer these days is awash in a sea of other authors, so if you point a spotlight at an easy target you’re much more likely to get noticed.

My aim here is not to start a passive-aggressive fight amongst the McGill publications, but instead to inspire a divergence from the sensationalist, hypersensitive writing tactics we see so often these days. We’re all better than that, guys.

And yes, I am very much aware of the hypocrisy.

(an old article about sensationalism at McGill, still quite apt even if the Kate Upton/One Direction thing blew over pretty quickly -WH)

Who to Remember, and Who to Forget

(An article that never got published because it wasn’t timely enough, I still think its one of the most important things I’ve ever written -WH)

Remembrance Day is the most recent target of a group of people that believe the best way to champion their views is to attack someone else’s. A recent McGill Daily article tied Remembrance Day to inherently evil weapons research, white supremacy, CIA spying, colonial exploitation, sexism and resolves that Remembrance celebrates the actions of modern war. Elsewhere, a campaign has begun to replace the traditional red poppies that honor sacrifice with white ones hoping for peace. Ignoring for a moment the horrendous gaps in logic… Actually let me digress for a second.

I hate that I am writing this article.

I have better ideas for articles. Articles I have been working on for months; articles with quotes and research and frankly much better writing. However, this November I felt compelled to pen a response to the unsolicited attacks on Remembrance Day that have become commonplace today. I would love it if we as a society universally decided that these movements were not worth the breath to talk about, the energy to write about or the ink to print about. However, this is not the case. This sort of alarmist, unsolicited attack is what draws eyes to the page and hits to the website, so ignoring it will simply not work. I look forward to the days when this sort of response article is no longer necessary, but for the time being…

What every criticism of Remembrance Day is missing is the word honor. It is simple to say that a day that’s purpose is the acknowledgement of those who have lost their lives in war is a celebration of battle or a glorification of combat. The recent Demilitarize McGill piece stated Remembrance Day goes far beyond the mourning of individuals killed in wars: it celebrates the actions of soldiers, and warfare more generally, as necessary for the defense of our ‘freedom’ against an indefinite network of enemies”This is rhetoric repurposed for a partisan view. Remembrance Day is not an endorsement of war or a praising of violence; it is to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the people who now live in a time of peace. It is to honor sacrifice and loss, dedication and bravery and to dismiss it as a self-aggrandizing celebration of jingoism demonstrates how small minded one truly is.

If you attend a Remembrance Day service you can see this. It is not a party, it is not meant to be fun and it certainly does not endorse death. It is a solemn event and that is how it should be. Men gave their lives not because it was fun or because warfare is something to be desired, but because they believed that the sacrifice of thousands was necessary for the benefit of millions. I find it horribly offensive to dismiss the loss of these lives as a footnote beneath political history.

Yes, war is terrible. Yes, every effort should be made to preserve peace. But the dismissal of this sacrifice does nothing to guarantee this. It is a tool used by people who have controversial viewpoints as a way of reaching as may people as possible and it is truly disgusting to use the deaths of these men as a podium from which to spew this venom.

The “white poppy” movement employs the same logic. If the participants of this movement simply chose to wear “peace” pins instead of poppies this November, they would make very few waves and we would be hard pressed to find someone who disagreed with their message. But by distorting the message of Remembrance Day to their own agenda they gain media coverage, reaction and feel a sense of accomplishment. Crusading for peace is a noble pursuit and while it can be discouraging to see the prevalence of violence in the world today, perverting the history of a nation is not the way to spread a message.

I do not have a problem with the views of these groups, far from it. But to build your own position by tearing down the views of others is despicable. To claim Remembrance Day represents a sexist patriarchal system, white supremacy and supports the acts of CIA spying is not defensible in the least. It is this tying of buzzwords and headline topics to a truly important occasion that makes these articles truly abhorrent. The author knows accusing an institution like Remembrance Day supporting sexism or racism will garner attention regardless of logic or truth.

My only comfort from this cavalcade of ignorant stupidity is that those who senselessly attack the memories of those who fought and died for their livelihood is that they are in the minority. A small fraction of the greater population attack McGill for its support of Remembrance Day and the armed forces where the grand majority is silent in its opposition. But while those who quietly remember are far more numerous than those who loudly contest, the presence of the latter group represents the voice more likely to be heard. I truly hope those who use the sacrifice of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers as a grandstand truly realize the folly of their position. Until then I say we continue to spend November 11th remembering our fallen, and forget these sad excuses for people.

The New Face of Facebook

Self-admiration as the primary practice in 2013

I am 21 years old, I am a university student; after captaining a few Carnival teams I have several hundred pictures I wish to share and people I wish to talk to. So essentially I am the quintessential Facebook user that some combination of Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins were targeting at Harvard in 2003. However, I no longer reflect that ideal.

Facebook has changed, and I am not referring to the user interface changes that cause half of your friends to threaten to delete their account twice a year. No, the change is subtler than that; it is a gradual but decisive shift from socialization to a platform designed around self-congratulation. This is not a revolutionary idea, the internet has always created egos far in excess of what certain people deserve. LinkedIn is a platform based around making oneself seem like the perfect employee, endorsing others and yourself for skills you aren’t even sure they possess. Instagram makes its users feel like bohemian master photographers and Twitter instills in everyone that the minutiae of their day is worthy of interest with a few followers. However every one of these services share the same problem; if you are not exceptional, not interesting, not worth listening to, the size of your audience will reflect that.

imagesFacebook however has circumvented this issue quite elegantly. This is because people like me spent the majority of their high school years accumulating Facebook friends. Because it was the way to share photos, it was how you heard about the parties happening that weekend, and eventually Facebook replaced MSN as a means of quick contact. Facebook was not a means of accomplishing a goal, but a method for socialization. Then, the advent of the smartphone began to redefine socialization; texting and BBM are faster and more direct than Facebook messaging and wall posts. These conversations no longer had to go through Facebook – creating a crisis for Zuckerberg’s baby. What was the role of Facebook in this new decade besides a framing device for various games and a way to disseminate baby pictures without carrying around a photo album?

However Facebook still maintained one advantage over the myriad of other networking sites – the friends list. Hundreds of people who chose to associate with you once upon a time have become de facto followers, and unless you’re particularly exceptional; there are probably more of them than your Twitter followers. It clicked for some that instead of writing statuses about “gearing up for the weekend” this could become an outlet, your method for gleaning the attention that the 21st century has convinced us that we deserve.

tbs_movies_meangirls_645x360_081920110109Now your status on the merits of Calvin Harris vs. Avicii reaches hundreds instead of your meagre amount of Twitter followers, and the sound of your internet voice can be heard loud and clear. It becomes easy to see the benefit of Facebook as your primary network when seeking social validation. Will these self-concerned entities cause people to realize they are abusing the system and move on? Not so fast as Zuckerberg’s monster has addressed this as well. By the same token that allowed this hypothetical person to access a massive potential audience, this person will likely maintain this contingent purely via nomenclature. These are not your followers, your subscribers, your connections, these are your friends. On Twitter, unfollowing an uninteresting, unfunny person carries no emotion and no social ramifications. Deleting a friend though still carries enough weight implying that you must be truly heartless to cut your friend out of your life. Even the truly idiotic and detestable are kept for the value of schadenfreude and self-congratulation by comparison.

It is admirable the way Facebook has transitioned its function from socialization to self-admiration to keep itself relevant. The intriguing question going forward is how lasting this new Facebook is in the face of increasing innovation. Whatever happens, we know that the big blue behemoth is nothing if not adaptable.

What to Expect on the Yeezus Tour

(once upon a time I tried culture reporting, I think I did alright)

Kanye West (especially if you ask Kanye West) has transcended the bounds of a typical recording artist. On any given day he may be wearing/ranting about leather sweatpants, comparing himself to Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph or making nice post-Twitter feud with Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, all these antics are as hilarious as they are insane, but there’s a big difference between watching TMZ and dropping hundreds of dollars on concert tickets. With that in mind, as a public service, I’ve collected a handy list of what to expect if you attend the self-aggrandizing narcissism-fest that the Yeezus tour will inevitably be.

- While your original intention might’ve been to buy upper-bowl tickets at a reasonable price, you’ll splurge on floor seats because you might see Beyonce or Jay-Z or god willing, catch a branded tee. You will not do either.

- You will walk through a sea of people wearing Kanye tees and garments that have no business being made of leather.

- You will briefly feel out of place for not having any of these clothes—this shame will quickly turn to smug superiority.

- You will walk by the merch stand selling concert tees. They will be aburdly designed and priced. (last I went, it was Kanye’s face merged with a cougar).

- You will consider buying one of those shirts for $45. If you do, you’ll probably regret it. If you don’t, you’ll probably regret it. I did not. Do I regret it? Yeah, a bit.

- You will want beer. Your only option will be lukewarm Molson Export at $9/plastic. You’ll buy it anyways and pretend to enjoy it. You will not enjoy it.

- Kanye will not go on at the time it says on the ticket. This is not unique to Kanye; this is how every concert is. It’s a fact of life and you just gotta accept it, OK?

- This is okay however, as Mr. West’s ego has swelled to the point that he will not tolerate an opening act that might draw attention away from his brilliance,  so feel free to show up a bit late. I would love to tell you who the opening acts were when I went but for the life of me I cannot remember, surely they were great though.

- There will be some large unnecessary prop as part of the performance. When I went there were 30-foot high platforms in the centre of the floor that eliminated about half of the floor seats. They were used for approximately 4 songs. At your concert they will be just as random, just as token and just as forgettable.

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- If you’ve never been to a rap concert, be prepared: the ratio of marijuana smoke to breathable air in the Bell Centre will be approximately 1:1.

- Addendum: many of the people smoking weed will be caught and thrown out by police. This is a great opportunity to eavesdrop on the hysterical pleas of the soon to be removed, which will be both absurd and hilarious. My personal favorites; “Plants can’t be illegal! Facists!” “But I have glaucoma,” and the classic, “Please, put me down—I burned off my eyebrows!”

- Beer will be spilled on you. In my odyssey to the Bell Centre, I had three separate beers spilled on me, not counting the ones spilled by my friends.

- If your fellow concertgoers are kind souls, they will buy you a beer to make up for this affront. Do not count on this or you will just end up like me; covered in warm Export and sad.

- There’s an even better chance that Kanye will abruptly stop the concert at some nonsensical point because he is a delicate genius and that is his prerogative. If you (and the rest of the crowd) simply shout that he’s a revolutionary, that his music moves not only bodies but souls, and that he is the second coming of Christ. This will sufficiently motivate him to continue the show.

- You’ll complain about this, claiming that for the price you paid for your ticket this type of disturbance is unacceptable. This will be a lie, because you just bore witness to the struggle of the artist, and no financial expense of yours could ever outweigh Mr. West’s spiritual expense in performing for us, the under-appreciating masses… Also it will be cool to have been in attendance for something that will be in the news the next day.

kanye-west-black-skinhead-video-2- You’ll be judged by the people next to you for not knowing the words to every song. Again, you’ll briefly feel inadequate to your neighbours, followed by a smug sense of superiority for having more going on in your life than the lyrics to Black Skinhead. 

- Many unpredictable things will predictably happen. Kanye’s clientele is diverse enough that trying to predict their shenanigans is difficult bordering on impossible. My personal favourites from the Watch The Throne Tour were the half-dressed/fully-grown man passed out in the bathroom, a man wearing an exact replica of Kanye’s stage outfit down to the leather skirt and a man urinating against a wall in the upper bowl so he wouldn’t miss the “Stronger” set.

Maybe this has deterred you from attending a Kanye concert in the future. Maybe this has just made you amped as fuck for the concert on November 14. But still the question remains, why would we spend hundreds of dollars to spend a few hours in this insanity?

Because regardless of how much of a douchebag he is, dude still makes good goddamn music

Why McGill is Failing You by Not Failing You

How McGill Grading Incentivizes Laziness

I don’t go to class very often.

If the slides aren’t posted, I might go. If there’s content in the lecture that I can’t get from the readings, I’ll probably go. If attendance is mandatory, I’ll go, but that is really rare.

Instead, I typically decide that I’d rather go to the gym, watch a movie, play video games or, my personal favourite, stay in bed and sleep.

See, the odds are good that a few days a week when I have class, I’ll have been out late the night before, perhaps overindulging and now nursing a hangover. On a morning when I’m still wearing the beer-soaked jeans from power hour and my shirt is long gone, it’s just easier to stay in bed. I’m sure it’ll work out; I’ll definitely go to class on Thursday, or maybe next week. The midterm isn’t for a month or so. I’ll do the readings later, it’ll be fine.

That has been my approach to school for the last four years. Granted it’s probably not the best way to go about my education; I’d be getting better value for my out-of-province tuition if I attended every class and sat in the front row. I’m sure my mother would agree.

I don’t get terrible marks though. I am not a straight-A student by any stretch of the imagination but neither am I on the verge of failing. I’m not special. I put in less than 10 hours of work per week on average, seldom start papers or projects early and never do optional assignments. I don’t possess a supernatural ability to absorb information, I don’t have a photographic memory and I don’t study any of my class material in advance. By all logic, I should not be doing well at university. Yet I do.

Shouldn’t this be more difficult? Post-secondary education is supposed to be what prepares us for our real lives – the last stage before one becomes truly independent – so why can we skate through it?

This is the issue that seems to be omnipresent in the post-secondary education system: it is fully possible to do the absolute minimum in every class and not only pass, but pass well.

Clearly I cannot speak for every class in every faculty; there are difficult courses and some faculties are certainly tougher than others. But among my major, minor and elective courses, I have yet to encounter a class that caused me to drastically change my work ethic.

Over the last four years I’ve realized the way to be successful in class is not to accumulate a great deal of knowledge and understanding, but rather to be good at regurgitation. With the small amount of attention paid to each individual in a 200-person class, a professor or T.A. cannot accurately gauge one’s comprehension of the material. But they can assess you based on what was said in that term paper, that essay question, or the five minutes you speak during a conference.

This allows me to quote key terms from the notes, name drop the authors the professor respects and then spend the rest of my time doing literally anything else. I’m not proud of how I handle schoolwork; I’m not a good role model for the fresh-faced first years I see in my elective classes. This is just how I have discovered schoolwork can be done.

When it becomes this easy to game the system, do you blame the ones who figured it out or the ones who created it?

If the goal of education is the collection of impressive letter grades, then it’s safe to say that the process has been streamlined. But if the intention is to impart knowledge, then rewarding someone like me is quite possibly the worst way to achieve that. We constantly hear how difficult it is to get a job post-graduation, how a university diploma just isn’t enough. But when a diploma is this easy to get, maybe it shouldn’t be.

It’s easy to say that it’s not the university’s job to make me take my education seriously. The tools are there and if I didn’t use them, that’s my fault, not the university’s. But can you blame me if I don’t want to scrutinize every page of the coursepack when there’s an easier method right in front of me? The problem is not that I don’t take my education seriously, it’s that I don’t take McGill’s education seriously.

Put differently here, there are a lot of classes I take here that I do not care about just to get my diploma. In an educational system that so highly values good grades, it makes sense that I would put the least effort into these while still trying to get good grades. If McGill wants to impress this curriculum on me and actually have me learn something, then at least make me work for it. Handing out easy grades to people gaming the system sends a mixed signal to employers: what does a diploma actually stand for? If McGill wants to remain one of the top schools in Canada, it should concern itself with imparting the best education possible, not creating the easiest path to a degree.

The bright side is that people like me are not total lost causes. The abundance of free time allows us to pursue what we are passionate for instead of memorizing facts. We still cultivate skills, we still learn—we pursue our education. But the feeling remains that had we been pushed a little hard to learn some of the things McGill wanted us to learn, we might be just a little more prepared for the real world.

It’s too late for me though. I’ll be out of here in three months, so even if the difficulty curve were to spike upward it won’t make my McGill education any more effective. I just hope that if we want these four years to mean something, then maybe it should require more effort to get that passing grade, and then maybe then people like me will have to spend a few more hours a week in the library.

The author would like to add that if any of his professors or his mother is reading this, the preceding article is a work of satire and he is currently in the library.

Millennial Leadership

Who we’ll soon be electing, and why it’s going to be a problem

 Kurt Vonnegut once said, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country”. While it is a scary thought that the guy you saw passed out on a couch at last week’s party could in a position of influence some day, I am more concerned about how we are cultivating the majority of the leaders of tomorrow. Future leaders are sacrificing life experience for the safety of spotless records, and this will lead to nothing besides a systematic destruction of ability to truly lead.

My concern stems from the increasing role that sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram play in our daily lives from a young age. Potential leaders are becoming increasingly concerned with maintaining a spotless online persona, to the point that their online image becomes a principle priority – and with good reason. We’ve seen what technology can do to public figures in the Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner scandals, and though we scoff at the buffoonish behaviour of these middle-aged men it incites an important question: “Haven’t you ever done something that would be scandal material?” But then again, should this really be the only question we ask potential leaders?

Glance at your Facebook and you will probably see drunken pictures from Carnival, or the unsavory photo you took as a joke for your friend. The simple truth is that most 20-somethings have at least a few pictures of drinking and partying floating around on the Internet. Usually these photos aren’t an issue until a job interview, but in the not-so-distant future we will be electing politicians who have lived their whole lives online.

When anyone with the ability to type can see about 1000 pictures of a potential candidate’s college days, won’t you always vote for the straight-A student over the party animal? This example may seem extreme but it is indicative of the future of our leadership decisions. The natural response to this idea is that, of course, we’d rather have the clean cut over the slob, the straight lace over the drunk. But considering this instinctive response, an increasing level of information saturation fundamentally changes the way people live in pursuit of these jobs, these positions, these lives. In some situations, transparency is to be desired, however this increasing saturation of information is fundamentally destroying the way these future leaders lead their lives.

We all know one or two people who throughout high school and college did their very best to stay squeaky clean, never breaking rules, seldom drinking and having conniptions when a Facebook picture of them at a party appears. We knew that those people had planned their next thirty years and none of them wanted to jeopardize their chances at becoming our future Prime Minister. When asked about this phenomenon, McMaster student and prospective doctor Elliot Hepworth commented, “I’ve always made an effort to not get caught holding alcohol… it was always just a little neurotic tendency of mine.”Similarly, McGill Management student Nathan Mooney remarked, “As a student we are constantly fed stories, true or not, about employers taking a keen interest in your online social life.”

Even with a limited sample size it is clear that this frame of mind is becoming increasingly common amongst our generation. Even if youth aren’t living in sterile rooms, the fear of being passed over or rejected based on their online persona is omnipresent.This permeating frame of mind is causing the youth to avoid experiences which not only help them grow as potential leaders but as human beings.

The issue is not the existence of career conscious chaps planning their future years in advance, but the fear that we are limiting our options for the future. We don’t just seek a spotless record from our leaders; this is not a college application. Leadership qualities are cultivated and established by experience. Clinton marched in protest of the Vietnam War; Obama experimented with marijuana and cocaine. Past choices don’t always dictate whether or not one will be an influential leader; people are defined by the sum of their experiences, not by the temptations they avoided.

The kids who dream of public office have not spent their years cultivating personality and skill, but have instead avoided experience in favor of safety. These people spurned parties for model UN and socials at Young Leader conferences. While others were living their lives, these “future leaders” paused theirs at 16.

Sadly, I do not see this pattern changing. There will always be people who spend every waking hour in the library in pursuit of their ideal career and there will always be those who sacrifice their lives now in exchange for what they desire 20 years in the future. However, I hope that when we go to vote for candidate A or B, each one with identical spotless records, we begin to question whether this is the right behaviour to reward.