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.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Liberty Under Threat

My read on the reaction to the Paris attacks is that most of the outrage centres on the events as an attack on liberty. This explains the fads of adopting peace symbols, tricouleur filters, and of course all the messages of solidarity that I've written about before. Westerners can sympathise with France as victim with readiness; we fail to extend that to those who live in societies that don't epitomise that liberty.

This has, of course, gotten me thinking. How does liberty fit into the narrative of combatting terrorism? Largely, contemporary extremism is viewed as an attempt to lash out at the decadence of the West - to oppose the liberty and democracy of societies such as France or the United States. These ''progressive'' places welcome difference and promote equality of opportunity, so the narrative goes.

But this is a convenient way to conceptualise the conflict: as a struggle between progressive, liberal societies and the extremist other. This so perfectly fits into the process of othering (us versus them). It also positions the West as defenders of liberty.

Moreover, it discounts our collective responsibility in creating an environment where extremism fluorishes, negating the role of imperialism. As I have continued to repeat, there are clear historical reasons for this conflict. Just in the past century, France conspired with the other allied powers to create zones of influence in the Middle East, violently resisted movements to decolonise North Africa and the Middle East, steadfastedly supported Israel, created a domenstic situation which led to the disaffection of six million of its immigrant citizens, and continually opposed refugee resettlement during the Syrian crisis.

This allows us to not even consider that France isn't the victim.

France, like the United States, is a society whose history is lauded as the manifestation of liberty. It's easy for us to rally around that image (think liberté, égalité, fraternité). But we must go beyond the façade and see that France does not embody these values in practice.

Let's change this narrative. Have we not learned that, in the fourteen years since 9/11, that this message of liberty under threat serves as the main thrust for increased militarism?

Saturday, 14 November 2015


I seldom find anything more heartwarming than displays of unity. It is genuinely nice to see solidarity manifest. However, what I find truly problematic is shows of solidarity that are inspired by a superficial movement and that highlight that an issue is only relevant in a certain context.

I am referring to the recent attacks in Paris and the stances taken by world leaders, the press, and people on social media.

It is either a disengenuous political statement about terrorism that rings hollow, or an unequivocal proclamation that some acts of terrorism are more equal than others. This, to me, is a serious problem.

The attacks in Paris, to be perfectly clear, were atrocious acts of terrorism. But acts of terrorism do not occur in vacuums. They are products of complex political, social, and economic climates. France has been rocked twice in 2015 - in fact, this was the subject of my most popular post with over a thousand views. We're dealing with Je Suis Charlie, the reprise.

The question to ask has to be: why has France been targeted twice?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward: France has an awful track record for integrating minorities. And this is not a new problem. France has a large, disaffected population of largely North African immigrants. Islamophobia is a massive problem in France, fueled by the War on Terror as well as the recent refugee crisis. This happened to be largely related to my MA thesis.

Unequivocally, France has been committed to the rhetoric of fighting terrorism, not backing down, closing off borders, and ultimately punishing moderate muslims as well as radicals. This was certainly true before the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, but certain political movements have further pontificated these values (like le Front national), furthering the xenophobic movement in France. (Consider for example that these attacks do not happen in moderate European states like Germany).

To take a "stand with France" is necessarily supporting these values of xenophobia, however intentional. It's not easy to hear. Especially when we consider that the expressions of this nature are unique to the attack on France, not to other acts of terrorism that have been confirmed in the past week alone - Nigeria, Lebanon, and Syria. It's plain and simple selective outrage.

What can we be doing instead? Acknowledge the value of all lives. The catastrophe in France is an expression of the same conflicts occuring in other parts of the world that are much more challenging for us to sympathise with. Let's be fair about violence: attacks of this nature, if we are to be appalled, necessitate that we are always appalled by them no matter where they happen.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Why Remember

At this time of year we are inundated with messages to never forget, but just what exactly are we implored to remember?

Is it the the armistice of 1918? The incomprehensible carnage of the First World War? The participation of Canada in numerous conflicts around the world? War more generally?

The significance of remembrance is that it should seek not to glorify conflict; it should somberly direct us to reflect on the impacts that war makes on humanity - from the individual to the society. 

We should remember the people who served our country, brave or not, by choice or by force. We should likewise remember those who we met as adversaries. We should remember their families. We should remember those who did not return, or who came back forever marked by their experiences. We should remember the civilians who witnessed the horror of war, targeted or caught in the crossfire. We should remember the victories, the defeats, the ceasefires. We should remember the atrocities, regardless of who committed them or against whom. We should remember the reasons why people took up arms against one another, both the iniquitous and the justifiable. We should remember why remembering is useful.

In short, we should consider Remembrance Day a moment to collectively and individually reflect on all the facets of war and peace.

Moreover, we should acknowledge that the act of remembrance is inherently personal. We thankfully live in a society that awards us this liberty, but it is only useful if we can see beyond what we are being told to remember.

NB - this is an English translation of a presentation I am going to be making tomorrow at a remembrance ceremony.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Because It's 2015

Today the new federal cabinet was sworn in. As promised, women make up 50 per cent of the cabinet positions. After viewing the appointments as well as the discussion around them, I reflected on the meaning of this moment. Trudeau's justification of ''because it's 2015'' really points out how simultaneously exciting and unremarkable the announcement was.

To start, it's easy to see why this is momentus. While the previous government was not known to be friendly toward women in politics, Canada has in fact had a pretty long history of women's absence from cabinet. 27 per cent of the Liberal MPs elected to Parliament were women - that's 50 of the 88 female MPs elected. This broke a few records, and the cabinet announcement is really an achievement that goes well beyond this. 

However, it's perhaps a bit more difficult to see this event as merely a requirement. The time for this has, to some degree, come and gone. Canada ranks poorly in terms of female representation in federal politics, below the 30 per cent threshold that is encouraged by the United Nations. The fact that it took until 2015 to have anywhere even close to this level of parity is, frankly, rather embarrassing. Trudeau's decision should be lauded, but it is nowhere near as progressive as some people are making it out to be.

It's worthwhile noting that there are existing quota systems in play in federal government. The most evident are regional differences, language, and affiliation. A good cabinet has largely been one that is meant to look good on paper, so the fact that so many people are bent out of shape about Trudeau's choices not being about merit are rather misguided. In fact, this truly reinforces the idea that quota systems are short-term solutions, because eventually we come to expect a certain diversity.

As such, I'd like to briefly outline the importance of affirmative action. There was barely an increase over 2011 in terms of women elected to the House of Commons. However, the media will have you believe that the 1 percentage point increase is a massive coup. This, as mentioned above, plays out both negatively and positively depending on people's values (to scare or encourage). But the idea should functionally be that a cabinet with parity should encourage more women to become engaged in the political system and, perhaps more importantly, it should convince the public that women are in fact capable of holding a portfolio and delivering like their male counterparts.

I'll leave you with an important notion: that diversity will lead to a greater degree of experience, a sharing of values, and hopefully better governance. Let's see what the next four years will hold.