Wednesday, 3 August 2022

The Day My Boss Multiplied

I was a Personal Assistant, so when my boss doubled him/herself into He/She/They or some such trans-title ... transitioning from one spirit into at least two, I knew there was trouble ahead. The thing is, I was still only one person, and could only run, type, text, email, "facilitate" and "expiate" so fast. 

I knew that two "They" would mean double work for me, but this prediction, naively based on arithmetic (two of her/him needing twice as much assistance by me), actually underestimated the problem. In reality the work was multiplied tenfold.

First, I had to learn a whole new language -- not to become bi-lingual, but half-lingual. Queerspeak has only a tentative relationship to English. And my Oxford English Dictionary wasn't much help. (I keep a large printed copy on my desk; I'm old-fashioned that way.) My boss(es) laugh: "you're so from another age", say They.

Then I had to change the pre-set salutations and signatures on all the printed and online documents and correspondence, which made me wince. (So that's what "triggering" is ...)

Then, there were the logistical problems, as when They wanted to have a meeting about "the office atmosphere". We are part of a larger office. I had to set up a meeting with Them. "How many people will be there," I ask? "Where?" "At the meeting." "Just you and us." "Okay ... so ... how many chairs?" "Two, of course. Yours and ours."

So we met, and talked about atmosphere. "Do you feel un-included and marginalized within our new normativity?" asked They. (Um ... yes.) "Sounds like you may need mental health support." (No, I'm fine ... really ...) "It would help you to Refresh and Reset your intersectionalism! Why haven't you updated your signature yet, using inclusive pronouns?"

"I," said I, straightening my spine, "prefer exclusivity in a pronoun, myself. I mean, like when it excludes the ungrammatical."

"Well that's sounds gas-lightingly colonialist, we must say."

"I bet you must. Did you know that it was in 1792 that William Murdoch invented gas lighting for houses? No, you didn't? Well he did, and that means that when Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre in 1847 she probably wrote it by gas light ..."

"Oh. Well, that all sounds pretty colonialist if you ask us, and we don't see what that anti-standpoint-ism has to do with ..."

"... and could you imagine if Charlotte, while finishing her famous novel by gas light, had ended it with 'Reader, I married them' ?"

"Uh ..."

"Why, the whole nature of English Literature would be different!"

"Good! The whole bloody thing should be de-centered and de-platformed."

That was when I adopted the Standpoint that my boss had diversified from any Theory I'd call rational, and I realized I had to get out of there. 

Reader, I Resigned.

Re-discovering the Meaning of Doctrine of Discovery

An "Indigenous Corporate Training" organization says that the "Doctrine of Discovery" is the basis of Canadian Law. This is not true.

First of all: never trust a process called "training" -- sounds too much like molding and grooming. And brainwashing. Secondly, the antecedents of evolution of Law in Canada can be found way back before that Age of Exploration in which Europeans found their way to other continents. Canadian (British-based) law has roots in Celtic and Druidic systems of justice, pre-Anglo-Saxon. Those communities settled disputes in much subtler ways than historians often give them credit for. 

When European explorers discovered that North and South America existed (having previously discovered that the Earth was round, and therefore deciding to sail around it), they found tribes that settled disputes through raids, warfare, and the taking of slaves (a fact which today's commentators are loathe to acknowledge). 

Who has sovereignty over a landscape? First, not humanity; humans live but a moment on a planet billions of years old, a churning cauldron of billions of other species. But our fundamental transitoriness notwithstanding, the practical arrangement is that Government has sovereignty -- and in a democracy a duty to use it in protection of life, liberty and property for all citizens equally.

And where do property rights come from? From legal use of land, i.e. from working it. Where your labour goes, you have an ownership interest. To buy, sell and bequeath your interest, government set up the institution of the Land Title Office. (Settlers didn't find one of those among the tribes they encountered in the "New World", so they proceeded under Old World legalities.) 

When non-Catholic monarchies like the British claimed territory (as in Canada) they made claim against other monarchies, not against aboriginals. With the multiplicity of aboriginal groups they made Peace and Friendship Treaties, exhibiting the opposite of dispossession (see the Royal Proclamation of King George III, 1763). 

The organized legal transference of real property (land) is a foundation of a peaceful society. Is that a thing we want to throw away, adopting a Doctrine of Strife instead, perhaps? 

No. Nor did people want to in Canada's colonial years; in fact the way they (as it turned out, naively) thought they'd include aboriginal people in the mainstream of opportunity was through education. And we know how that turned out. Basically, it takes more than a generation, and we see now that schooling shouldn't have been left in the hands of punitive clergy with rigid religious agenda of their own. 

Their punitive harshness wreaked misery on generations of white students also ... but that, in contemporary thinking, is overlooked. No doubt in future they too will stake a claim to compensation. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Who Discovered North America?

North America is discovered every day -- masses of immigrants arrive at airports and discover it for themselves. Layers of Canada are constantly uncovered, something new always appearing not noticed by everyone else. 

They say no one creates, only re-creates; it's the same with discovery. As an infant you discover the world beyond your crib, and your neighbourhood as a child venturing out on your first bike. Maybe you'll discover a mountain-top, a stunning view, after a laborious hike. It's irrelevant whether you're the first to see this view; this is your discovery of the place. 

Let's stop arguing about which race saw something first, since everything is serially re-discovered in every generation. With unsettling speed it's often rediscovered in another guise: live animal becomes meat, wild space becomes farmland, tribal territory becomes a country, an oasis becomes a tourist resort. Life is all discovery -- of change.

Scientists discover new species. They've always been there, but they're new to science. A stream is altered by flooding, a shoreline altered by a cliff collapse. If you're not discovering new things in your surroundings most days, you're not alive -- or at least not looking around. Everyone brings new eyes to a locale, and it keeps offering something new to discover. Yes, it will be transformed, and the documents describing it can also be changed. Will be changed: new values discovered. "History" is the history of rediscovery.

Prairie becomes pasture, then lawn, then pavement. Each generation sees what the previous one never knew. Discovering the same place, they see different places. So who's the first discoverer? There's no such person. What you discover isn't about where you are, but what you notice, and we tend to find what we are looking for.

Maybe we should focus on uncovering joy instead of tribal resentments. Sharing instead of evicting. We need to discover open-mindedness, especially in education. Schools shouldn't re-shape information to fit correct opinion of the day. Learning new information is scary, but that's not news: book-banning by religious and nationalist forces has always been about fearing to uncover inconvenient historical facts, and other people's ideas. That's why it's essential to keep a country's National Archives safely preserved and away from the political agendas of rivalrous groups. That's why the recent deletion of certain words, facts and records from the National Archives of Canada is deeply dangerous -- it's an official cover-up.*

Whenever records are suppressed, historians silenced and history itself made ahistorical, we discover ourselves to be lost in a wilderness of muddle and dispute.

So who "discovered" North America? Primitive Asian tribes migrating over an ice bridge from the northwest? Vikings crossing the Atlantic from the northeast? Spanish explorers sailing up from the south? 

Once Europeans discovered that the planet was round, mariners sailed around it. Looking for a water-way to the Far East, Europeans found continents: North and South America. Whatever lands adventurers explore and settle in, someone else always wants to cover up parts of history they dislike. But no fear: it's all fuel for RE-discovery. The partisan cover-ups of documents today will supply revelations for generations to come -- lots of material for new history scholars to do their PhDs about. 

*See Purge of 'offensive content' in national archives a guess to employees | Toronto Sun :        “Much of the content on the Library and Archives Canada website reflects the time at which it was written,” wrote Canada's Chief Archivist in a June 9, 2021 email.  Of course it reflects its time! It's supposed to. That's why it's in an archive (the "place in which government records are kept"). This archivist goes on to say "much of this content may be offensive". All historical content offends somebody, but an Archive's job is to preserve it, not delete it.

Saturday, 9 July 2022

On Compelled Pronouns and Preferred Nouns

In many workplaces people are now urged (or forced) to "declare their pronouns" under their signatures. Apparently this is a way of acknowledging other people's identities. (Or is it to acknowledge something else? Their politics? Their feelings?) Many people don't really know but they don't want to rock any boats on their journey across the seas of career success, so they go along with whatever the "compelled pronouns" edict is for.

"Compelled" anything though, as far as speech is concerned, is fundamentally ill-liberal. I prefer therefore to begin and end letters and emails by Declaring My Nouns, choosing a word in the nominative case to sign off with, such as one of these:


These are but a few of the Preferred Nouns I like to "identify" with, but there are lots more in the lexicon where those came from.

I don't want to invade anyone else's privacy either, by compelling them to reveal personal facts about themselves to me. Usually (to employ a Preferred Acronym) it's TMI anyway. Whatever happened to the "need to know" rule? 

My other favourite acronym -- in case you need to know -- is MYOB.


Has "safety-ism" gone mad?

Someone online demanded that the government create free programs in parks during school holidays, for kids whose parents can't afford summer daycare programs. 

Governments already have: the parks themselves. That's why we have them -- so kids can go there and play. Together. With other kids, of all ages, using the playground equipment provided, or racing around the grass and hiding-and-seeking among the trees -- without adults.

"Go out and play" parents used to tell kids in the summer holidays, and kids reveled in freedom from school, rules and supervising adults. They hung out with other free-range kids, learning to make their own entertainment and plan their own day. "Be home by dinner" was the rule, plus "look both ways when you cross the street".

Today kids are prisoners in lockdown, pandemic or no pandemic, living a merely virtual life, becoming unfit and often obese. 

If you do see kids at a playground, the parents or minders won't be far away yet they're usually mentally absent: heads bent over phones, texting, scrolling ... not actually interacting with the kids they're helicoptering around.

The playgrounds themselves are peppered with warnings, for we have helicoptering bureaucracy too, in mortal fear of lawsuits, and caught in the grip of Safety-ism:

Parents won't even let their kids ride around quiet neighbourhoods on bikes. Assuming they're not unfortunate enough to live downtown, that's a major brake on independence. Much better to learn the best rules early: stay on the curb, use hand signals, obey stop signs, and watch what's going on around you. The road to responsibility -- so many kids never take it. 

Friday, 8 July 2022

Don't Go Short of Humour During Shortages of Staff

Is the current wave of staff shortages (in retail, wholesale, transport, airports, ferries, health care, construction) linked to a reluctance of the upcoming generation to seek employment? A preference of graduates (or drop-outs) to keep living with parents (citing existing rental affordability problems), while dreaming of careers "working online", i.e. never having to step away from the computer screen? Or do some pin their hopes on the mandatory Basic Minimum Wage idea being touted in some quarters? Unemployment figures issued are based on number of people applying for jobs.

Does the worker shortage (and shortage of qualifications for positions of responsibility) also result partly from changes in the education system? What do schools teach, today? They've given up on Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, that's obvious. Those are replaced by texting and "oral traditions". Arts and Sciences (literally, "skill and knowledge") have been replaced in the contemporary K-12 curriculum by subjects such as Safetyism, Competitive Victimhood, Neuro-variance (Curating Your Moods), Gender-variance (Mix and Match), Data Violence, and Dysphoria (a state of feeling very unhappy and dissatisfied). 

Students certainly aren't being groomed to deliver customer service or do jobs involving physical labour -- or commitment. (On-again off-again "gigs" are short-term, in case you want to be off again.)  

This sounds like a typical aging person's grumpy assessment of the "younger generation" such as has been offered since time immemorial? Yes, indeed. Yet, some things really are different now, like the technology-driven ones (the retreat to life on-line) and ideological ones (creating mediocre education systems through sometimes well-intended PC virtue-notions of equity and inclusion). 

Maybe the healthiest thing to do is to keep a droll sense of humour (our best armor against "dysphoria"). Some folks choose to be On the Droll:

On the Droll | Mad Swirl

And some kids prefer to drop out of school:


Thursday, 23 June 2022

City Councils Proclaim Anti-Canada Day

Post-Covid-lockdowns, in 2022 Canadian residents will once again be able to gather for Canada Day on July 1st, although it's now considered Anti-Canada Day by some (including Winnipeg -- and Victoria municipal councilors and their "Family"?) 

Re-naming Canada's national day will free us to repudiate our founding fathers and cultural mothers (and the countries of the British Isles), and make room for exciting maple-syrupy declarations of allyship with the "marginalized and victimized".

That way, we will be able to go on apology-overdrive for being a liberal democracy. Apologizing is what Canada does best -- let's celebrate it! We will be able to de-platform history, and enforce compelled speech about it. 

To culturally-correct drumming we will sing the new version of our national anthem: No Ca-nadaaa ...

Participants in Canada Day festivals are asked to leave their maple leaf flags at home, in case the white spaces on them are offensive to vulnerable groups.

In Victoria, the capital of BC, portraits and statues of colonial figures will kindly stay locked in their crates:

Below: Old-fashioned insubordinate celebration -- Pro-Canada Day Picnic (2021)

I was a Personal Assistant, so when my boss doubled him/herself into He/She/They or some such trans-title ... transitioning from one spirit ...