Wednesday, October 17, 2007


My comments on the posts of the villagers who stop by get long sometimes, so, once again, I'm hanging a response to a comment (fsjl's final one on the "Wise Woman" post of October 7), here. We know different groups of people use words differently, even though they all speak the same language. A fave example is the word “bad,” which in African American Vernacular English means something different from it means in Canadian English. So when fsjl wonders what standards the young people he teaches have, maybe we should consider whether the word "standard" means to them what it means to him. A standard is (I think) a measure, a criterion of some kind, a benchmark used to judge. A standard applies when there is awareness and acceptance that it IS a measure, and when there is a sense of accumulating behaviour, the notion that the things that we do add up. (Caution: Even when repeated behaviours appear to signify a standard, they may not. Many people who refrain from eating pork can't tell you why they don't eat it, in which case I’d think it's a "style" or a "habit" (and a blind one), not a standard. If it’s done for religious reasons, or health reasons, or some other reason that the abstainer can name (they may be fond of pigs), then it becomes a standard. The standard in the pig-lovers case would be: “I don't eat animals that I'm fond of.”) But we should consider that some people may simply act, behave, do stuff each day, and repeat the stuff when the next day comes. If this is true, then perhaps those behaviours that fsjl’s students value - wanting "bling", consuming expensive items, using women just for sex – are just (blind?) habits and not measures of anything. When "those who should set the standard" have no standards, younger folks never get to see standard-based behaviour. We all know the best way to recognize a duck: if it acts like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc., etc. If institutions of learning lack standards, businessmen lack standards, governments lack standards, clergy lack standards (preach forgiveness, don't forgive: preach moderation, grab at money, etc., etc.), how are the young supposed to grasp the idea of "standard"? When we were growing up, my father fed us little sayings like: "Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains;" "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." But he didn't only say those things, he did exactly (or almost exactly) as he said. And so I think I know a standard as well as I know a duck. More anon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Good citizen responds to other good citizen...

This started out as a reply to jdid, but got so long I figured I'd hang it out here. I agree that the MMP system needs thinking through. That said, I'm convinced that some mix of first-past-the-post AND proportional representation would be better than the present system. For one thing, it could allow folks to vote for a candidate of one party in their riding, and a different party as their party of choice, based on platform, which is what I would have done in the last election, had I been able to. I also agree that a lot of new immigrants remain in "little enclaves or ghettos", as you put it. But that's not something new. Some people in my neighbourhood who have lived and worked here for 40 years still speak no English. It often takes a generation or more for a degree of cultural shift to be effected, and public schools are an important part of that exposure to other cultures, other ways of life, which is why the public school curriculum needs a massive overhaul, so that it addresses Earth of 2007 in the physical sciences, with a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability, and Earth of 2007 in the social sciences and the humanities, with an emphasis on sustainability there as well. Do any schools teach African or Indian or Chinese or Latin American or Caribbean or Slavic History? Are there any that teach Arabic and Cantonese and Swahili? Religion enters the picture, of course, and often, inevitably, not just religion but religious politics, and THAT can create huge problems. Did you see the story about the Samaritans in one of papers in the past couple days? Because of religious rules that oblige them to marry within the group, the Samaritan community has virtually destroyed itself, intermarriage having produced people with all kinds of handicaps because the gene pool is so run down. It's a good, albeit extreme, example of what we are talking about. (In fact, it supports the case that you are making.) There are studies that show that young people are more open to new cultures, learnings and experiences than older ones, and the new technologies open the world to all inquiring minds in ways previously unthinkable. Those two things will inevitably promote a degree of 'mixing of the pot', and, married to a good school curriculum, might achieve something that produces the openness that we have to some degree in the Caribbean. We can keep talking about this for a long time, I know. I just have kept saying, all the time that I've been here, that with an advanced degree, English as my native language, and friends and family in the community, negotiating the systems has sometimes been a huge challenge. If I had not completed high school, didn't speak the language and knew no one at all, I might find getting to know 'the culture' (whatever that is) a daunting challenge.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Good citizen, back on blogspot

I can't believe I've not written anything since 4 October, which is a long time ago – nor responded to comments! So sorry! All kinds of things happening in public and private spaces. We've had an election in Ontario, handily won by the Liberals. A new method of election that would combine candidates chosen by the 'first-past-the-post' method and a number of others selected according to the relative standings of the parties in the overall vote, was defeated. I think it's a sensible way to approach the business myself, and the people in my riding (mainly blue collar folks) supported it, I'm pleased to say. What can and often does happen in first-past-the-post MO, is that the party with the largest number of candidates doesn't have anything like the majority of the people supporting it. When the turnout of electors is small (say, 60%), and of that number only 40% choose the government, then those who run things can't really say with confidence that they represent the people's choice, which makes things difficult for them as well as everyone else. (BTW, the two people who voted in our online poll thought that people should be obliged by law to exercise their franchise, as is the case in Australia.) There's also been some discussion lately about Canadian-ness and what makes a Canadian, and whether immigrants who come to Canada should seek to 'join' the mainstream culture. A couple days ago, I came across a 2004 interview with Elaine Savory (in the journal WADABEGEI) in which I was singing the praises of Canada for being a place where one could come wit one's likl kulcha and make a contribution to this larger whole that seeks to resemble, in its diversity, the demographics of Earth. I left my native land late, when I was a "big, grey-back woman", as we say in JA. I am not likely to be turning into anything else at this stage of my life – I'm too old to suffer a sea change. It's also a source of great pride to me that the Governor General of Canada is a woman of colour originally from the Caribbean. She's very much a Canadian – not one like me, but that's what I've always thought Canada is about. Besides, I'm not sure who is a mainstream Canadian. Is it a First Nations Person? Somehow I don't think that's the popular conception. I shall continue to watch the debate with interest. As for what's going on in private space: my absence from the blog has been in part due to a visit to the incredible Zoey and her parents in Indiana. I taught her, I am pleased to say, an important Jamaican cultural behaviour – to stick out her tongue. I am delighted to report that if you stick yours out, she sticks hers out too! On that defiant Be-who-you-are-and-too-bad-fe-who-don't-like-it! note, I'll sign off. More soon, as well as responses to all who have visited. Walk good.