Is This Progress? This Is Progress.

What Is Kaputall?

Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

What's in a Name?

I've spent the past few weeks thinking about my identity and who I am. In many ways I'm a hybrid. I'm a Quebecker and an Ontarian. I'm bilingual. I'm ambidextrous. I'm queer. I'm a social democrat.

Those identities are all very important to me. But they're all really complex and complicated. Often, they are identities that are invisible to others. Sometimes because it's not something I wish to bring up; sometimes it's just a matter of convenience. But there's one identity that gets blown by every time because of its sheer simplicity: my name.

It's been ten years now, fully a decade, since I decided to start going by James.

It was August 2004. A life transition awaited me regardless of what I did. It wasn't a decision that I took lighly. I spent the last two years of high school waiting so that when I went away to university in the fall of 2004 I could have a clean slate.

Of course, things didn't go according to plan. I moved to Waterloo from Kitchener, and my old life stayed close by my side, the two mixing like a venn diagramme with me in the middle. I was now James. I was still Scott.

At the time, I didn't worry because I figured it wouldn't take long before everyone would call me by my name. After a few years, I kind of just gave up. I had tried, and then I decided to live a life where half the people around me called me Scott and the other half James. Unsure, in some measure, of who I really was.

I've just always felt imposing - or at the very least awkward - when I explained how I wanted to be addressed. Some people have been a lot more sympathetic than others. And I get - I really do. I didn't feel self-assured about it initially and I let people tell me how I should feel instead of confidently reminding them that I know who I am.

Somehow I let other people continue to define me when it really should be up to me. I understand that you are used to seeing me in a certain way, but I'm politely asking you to consider how I would prefer to be acknowledged.

This summer I've come to the conclusion that I want to be called James - by everyone. I'll hopefully have a chat with everyone about this. If you're uncomfortable let me know. I really understand - just try to remember that I'm only seeking to be validated. All I really want is a respectful dialogue. In fact, I deserve one, don't I?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sorry to Disappoint

Last night I was nominated for the ALS Icebucket Challenge. I hate to disappoint (I really do), but unfortunately I will not be dumping a bucket of icewater on my head, nor will I be donating to the ALS society.

My first concern is that this icebucket challenge is a prime example of modern slacktivism. This is a term that has been used to describe the various ways that we claim to be supportive and advocate for a cause without necessarily making an impact. Of course activism itself is amorphous, but it's important to note that activism should lead to the promotion of a greater understanding and appreciation of an issue, not merely parroting a line that has been offered by one organisation. I'd argue that, in the case of the icebucket challenge, there has been a limited amount of discussion about ALS, its causes, treatment, or research. Anyone claiming to be an activist, in short, should be critically aware of what it is they are a supposed advocate for.

This touches on a related notion, that this challenge is a viral campaign designed to take off on social media. This is a free form of advertising for them and is, largely, self-sustaining. Without increasing their marketing budget, they've gained a platform around most of the developed world. This has been fueled largely by a sense of narcissism (people want to be seen on Facebook being generous and supportive) and by the fact that it is based on interpersonal relationships (meaning that you've been nominated by a friend and there's something on the line).

Beyond the sentiments of feelgoodism, it's worthwhile thinking about how the icebucket challenge very loosely meets the basic requirements of being "challenging". It's not difficult to dump water on your head, nor is it to make a video, nor is it to donate money. It's, in my opinion, far more challenging to become critically aware of what you're actually doing.

I just watch what's going on here and I can't help but think about mustaches, red equal signs, wristbands, and other self-serving, self-promoting forms of slacktivism. More or less this fails to cause any harm, but every once in a while it's a more nefarious situation - need we be reminded of Kony 2012.

I'll close off this rant by talking about what we can do. We should take care to note how to donate to causes we feel our important (whether that's promotion, time, or money). Take some time to research where you can. Where I'm an activist today is in writing my MP about missing aboriginal women, a terrible mark on modern Canadian society that the Conservatives have been all too happy to dismiss.

As a result, I nominate nobody. All the best.