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Archive for the ‘censorship’ Category

Bread and Circuses – The Illusion of Choice

Posted by E on September 14, 2015

media-small

Last night was the first day of Rosh Hashana – for those of you unfamiliar with Jewish holidays, it’s a special celebration that marks the beginning of a new year – 5776 to be precise. So for the last couple of days I’ve been busy cooking up a storm and cleaning the house for a dinner party on Sunday evening. But sometime between making sure that the Hungarian goulash would bubble gently on the stove for precisely 2.5 hours and getting the ingredients together for my first-ever (and incredibly delicious) Asian-inspired bourbon chicken dish, the idea for a new blog entry came to me. Paradoxical, considering that what I was doing (chopping veggies in the kitchen) was rather mundane – but since I get my best ideas in the shower or while brushing my teeth, it shouldn’t have surprised me after all.

shana_tova shanatova drawing

Over the last month or so I’ve been developing a basic guide to social media marketing for artists – writers specifically, but something that should benefit anybody in the arts who wishes to build a wider platform. I’ve written about 3-4 pieces that cover branding, crowdfunding and blogging, but suddenly – while checking on the brisket and roasted Romanian peppers (I should give you guys the recipe!) – it dawned on me that I neglected the most important factor of marketing – the bigger picture.

Just about anybody can call themselves a social media expert these days. As human beings bred to be social creatures, we all have varying degrees of proficiency. But what passes as social media instruction is often very superficial – just last week I read ads for a webinar that teaches wannabe “experts” how to bluff their way into getting hired by unsuspecting clients who might actually know more than they do.

I’m guilty of giving impersonal advice too, and who isn’t? The internet is full of advice that aims to be helpful. You’ll be told that you need to brand yourself – start a blog, print some business cards, etc. It’s all fine and dandy, and you’ll read the same advice practically everywhere. But how many such self-help webinars will tell you about the illusion of choice? Who will tell you that you’re actually working against a huge, invisible wave that nevertheless permeates every fiber of our daily existence?

media_consolidationThe Illusion of Choice

In order to really and truly understand the fundamentals of marketing, you must learn about the forces behind it. Specifically, you have to learn the rules of the game that, for better or worse, we’re all conditioned to play. A crucial piece of that understanding rests in accepting the fact that much of what we think we know – that is, the basis for our opinions – comes from a filtered, polluted and thoroughly biased process.

Many of us have heard of Noam Chomsky’s ground-breaking 1988 book Manufactured Consent. Chomsky based the title on a quote from a 1922 book titled Public Opinion by one Walter Lippmann, which delineates the social, physical, and psychological barriers impeding man’s ability to interpret the world. Yes, even back in 1922 (before the funnel-like conglomeration of the world’s media) there were concerns about human beings’ ability to discern the truth around them.

“The manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. […] the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough” – Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

media-moguls-1200x849The blame for such intentional ignorance rests both on the plutocracy of the status quo (who own or fund the printing presses, radio, TV and other forms of media) and also on the public itself who prefers ignorance over reality – much like the current obsession over Kanye and Kim Kardashian’s ass.

Lippmann’s discourses are that 1) the media is profit-driven, and 2) wants to play it safe, i.e. won’t publish anything too controversial.

1.The buying public: The bewildered herd must pay for understanding the unseen environment through the mass communications media. The irony is that — although the public’s opinion is important — they must pay for its acceptance. And we know that people will buy the most media at the lowest price: “For a dollar, you may not even get an armful of candy, but for a dollar or less people expect reality/representations of truth to fall into their laps”. (Wikipedia)

2.Nature of news: Officially-available public matters will constitute “the news”, and unofficial (private) matters either are unavailable or used as “issues” for propaganda. (Wikipedia)

Bread and Circuses

cicero bread and circusesI’d heard this phrase decades ago, as part of some subversive political zine or another, and knew that it dated back to Roman times, a poet named Juvenal and the violent “games” of the Coliseum. The meaning isn’t hard to grasp: in 140 B.C. Roman politicians passed laws to keep the votes of poorer citizens by introducing free food rations: they gave out free grain and entertainment, i.e. “bread and circuses”, which became the most effective way to rise to power.

I heard the phrase again last year from someone who had read my memoir Race Traitor and was shocked that it hadn’t received coverage in mainstream news. So many people have written to me privately and congratulated me for fighting fear and publishing a crucial part of 1990s Canadian history, a piece of our history that certain government factions would rather be forgotten.

juvenal2I told him that I’d done my best to contact the media, tapping every contact I’d had in the press. I was actually interviewed by a well-known journalist from the Globe & Mail, as well as a top programming director at the CBC. Neither interview ever made it to print (or air).

I refused to speculate why, but with the media monopolization that has taken place over the last few decades, it isn’t hard to imagine why a state-funded television network like the CBC would decline to air my story – despite the fact that in 1994 they had broadcast a Fifth Estate episode that featured Grant Bristow and my story. Back in 1994 Linden MacIntyre (who couldn’t be bothered to reply to my 2014 email, even after being connected to him via well-known human rights attorney Paul Copeland) had quoted the Toronto’s Regional CSIS Investigator as saying “We’ll tear her to shreds” about me. I was an 18-year old girl back then, a child, who CSIS wanted to “rip to shreds” because my affidavits described many of the criminal activities their agent Grant Bristow had committed. Grant, of course, was subsequently retired to Alberta and given a “shut your mouth” package totalling close to a million dollars.

revolutionGiven the media monopoly going on in the world today, it is increasingly difficult to get any airtime if you’re writing hard-hitting pieces that might challenge the government or status quo. I’ve received private messages of encouragement from mainstream journalists too afraid to cover my story publicly. What choice do they have? I understand their dilemmas – everyone has a mortgage, kids, needs to put food on the table.

Six media giants now control 90% of what we hear, read or see on television, on the radio, in the newspapers or at the cinema. In 1983, that 90% was owned by 50 different companies. Yes, times have changed, and if you want to be hired or stay employed in mainstream press, you have to toe the line and play by the rules. This isn’t a “conspiracy” – it’s a sad fact.

Timeline of Media Conglomeration

1941 – rules were created to ensure that a broadcaster could not own TV stations that reached over 35% of the population.

circuses21946 – rules were enacted that prohibited a major network from buying another major network

1996 – Telecommunications Act = rules went out the window, unprecedented radio station consolidation

2008 – the US Senate voted, without debate, to throw out FCC’s rules on newspaper broadcast conglomerations.

These six major corporations now own all the world’s major publishers and every major newspaper in western countries. They also own the news stations, leading to collusion and censorship in reporting.

Why am I writing this? Because whenever it comes to media manipulation and the corporations behind it, you’re bound to hear all sorts of opinions about who is running the show, and what their agenda might be. And frankly I am sick of the misinformation going on out there, even among progressives on the left and Anonymous. Tired of the implied and overt anti-Semitism that goes with the thought that these six corporations are all connected to Jewish families like the Rothschilds or Bilderbergs. This is NOT about Judaism, or “the Illuminati”. Such disinformation campaigns are hateful, disingenuous and serve to promote division among people. They’re just as evil as media disinformation campaigns that aim to vilify our “enemies” (i.e. the Russians – anybody in BRICS) before we go to war with them.

Orwell media memeLet me set the record straight: as a Jew, I’ve never benefitted from any largesse because of my ethnic or religious background. Because I told the truth about CSIS’ illegal actions in the 1990s I still can’t get my book featured by the mainstream press and I had to default on my student loans in order to have a life. I have absolutely nothing on my side but the truth (not that the truth puts food on the table).

Religion or a European background is NOT what ties people like the Rothschilds, the Bilderbergs, the Rockerfellers, the Oppenheimers or the House of Windsor together – because as a European and a Jew, I’m still poor. And let me assure you that nobody called me with the password to initiate me into the Illuminati 🙂

What keeps the elites in power is greed and unethical, unadulterated wealth – not religion, not ethnicity, not skin colour. The only God the .001% of elites worship is Money. Any charitable foundations they create are about tax write-offs. Any photo-ops with indigenous peoples or wartime refugees are to profit from potential lawsuits disguised as humanitarian causes, or potential territorial resources. When Queen Elizabeth shakes hands or takes a bouquet of flowers from a toddler, she’s more concerned about the colour-coordination of her coat & hat and renovating the plumbing at Windsor Castle with taxpayers’ money.

speak the truthWe’re talking about the .001% of elites whose God is Money. These are people born with diamond-encrusted gold spoons in their mouths, who have never known hunger, fear, or had to fight with all their might to achieve anything in their lives. Their only claim to fame rests on the laurels of being born at the right time, out of the right vagina.

And in the meanwhile the rest of us, the .999%, are fighting amongst ourselves for scraps. Allowing the biased, partisan, manufactured media to divide us along camps of left and right, black and white, Jewish, Christian or Muslim. This is not about money or religion, or sexual orientation (I’m a lesbian – but why would you care what I do in bed?).

It’s about POWER and CONTROL.

How can we ever succeed when the game is rigged? Simple – educate yourself. Inform yourself and others. It’s only the beginning. And even if with every passing year it’s more difficult to discern the truth – you have to keep trying. Because our lives have to have meaning above and beyond the pursuit of money. There has to be some meaning in all this – in all the tears and despair of a world where millions die of hunger, manufactured wars and preventable diseases every year.

There has to be.

life meaning

Watch this today. BE the change you want to see in the world.

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Posted in activism, blog, books, cbc, censorship, freedom, globe & mail, grant bristow, jewish, journalism, media, publishing, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Berlin, Beijing – behind the smoke and mirrors, a monster rears its ugly head

Posted by E on August 22, 2008

Berlin 1936 = Beijing 2008. I bet Leni Riefenstahl is rolling in her grave wishing she could’ve gotten a crack at filming this one.

How are they similar? In both cases, a hopelessly corrupt IOC awards the Olympic games to a savage totalitarian state, while the world turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed by that state.

Violations against open discourse started early: as foreign journalists began converging on Beijing to cover the Summer Olympics, restrictions began to be placed on journalistic freedoms.

Since China was awarded the Games, China’s Communist Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have continually given guarantees to the world’s media that journalists would have unrestricted access to the Internet.
Then, the Chinese Government blew that commitment into disarray when 20,000 journalists covering the August 8 – 24 Games in Beijing were told they would be blocked from accessing some Internet sites.

China has also designated 3 parks in Beijing for “sanctioned demonstrations”, promising that there would be room for protests, provided that those planning to organize a peaceful protest would submit a petition in advance. The result: people were rounded up and arrested instead. No protest ever took place.

Australia’s Media Alliance spokesman Christopher Warren was quoted as comparing the upcoming Games to those hosted by Nazi Germany in 1936. “This promises to be the most restricted Olympics, in terms of reporting the Games and its social and political context, since Berlin in 1936”.

Everyone who has watched the Olympics has witnessed pro-Chinese cheating, none more evident than in the gymnastics fiasco. Not only are at least two of the girls underage, but in my opinion it’s pretty clear the judges have been bought. Not surprising, though, since the field of gymnastics, like figure skating, is notorious for bribing and buying of judges.

China has spent in excess of 43 billion dollars (yes, you read that right) to showcase their superiority over (and shame) all other nations who have ever hosted an Olympics. You can rest assured that the message “We’re Bigger, We’re Better” does not stop with the theatrics of the opening ceremonies, to dubbed musical productions or with little girls who are considered too ugly to represent China and must sing below a stage.

The smoke and mirrors that cover an insatiable urge to beat all others will not put all its hopes on the shoulders of mere human beings. Just think about it – if you’ve gone all the way and spent 43 billion dollars on a show, what’s a few more paltry million to buy off some judges?

This is a country where you go to jail if you speak out against the regime. Where ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and murdered in the open. Where you must fit in, must not think for yourself, must become a robot for the State.

Communism and fascism are similar in that way: they curtail the freedom to be an intellectual, to have free thought, to breathe without looking over your shoulder. They curtail the kind of music you can listen to, the kinds of magazines you read, the choice of vocation, job, and career you may ever have dreamed to have.

These are nations where children with aptitude are kidnapped from their parents and thrown into provincial facilities where they are forced to train for 16 hours a day, just to show the State as powerful and full of glory. Gold medals are stacked upon the broken bones, wilted minds and ruined bodies of young people.

You can also count on the fact that pre-Olympic discussions took place, where Chinese judging officials have been not only bribed with better apartments and salaries, but also warned that if they brought shame upon China (by marking them less than anyone else), they would be deported to some gulag somewhere and would wish for an early death.

You think it can’t happen again? Guess what? It’s happening already.

Posted in censorship, china, commentary, communism, culture, freedom, germany, news, olympics, politics, tibet, war | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blowing the dust off our Securitate dossiers

Posted by E on July 8, 2008

This year I am applying to several grants for the book I am working on – a lot of it will be about Romania before the fall of communism, and it will weave together the story of my family and many other stories that need to be told in order to preserve the historical value and integrity of that time – and preservation of history in any form is one of the biggest reasons I write, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

Anyhow, given the number of grant requests I am putting in and the strength of the project itself, I feel confident that something will break through. So I am beginning to make inquiries into sending a representative to CNSAS in order to petition for the release of the files (since I’m in Canada). I will go down there when they are ready to release the documents, and put the finishing touches on the book in the place where it all began: Bucharest.

The files are bound to be extensive: I remember being followed from school to playground to our apartment, and people with bags of candy approaching me in the park and asking questions about my parents. I remember the policemen always hovering around the downstairs door, and our friends, relatives, aquaintances and even teachers telling us of how Securitate men showed up at their doors and pressured them for information. 

My father had a history of making comments against the state, and my mother sought political asylum in Italy in 1985. Father & I were followed and scrutinized for 2 years until we were given exit visas under the Red Cross Family Reunification Program, in 1987 – 2 years before the Revolution.

I welcome any comments from anyone else who has personally, or knows of someone else, who has gained access to their Securitate dossiers. I know the files can take up to a year to be released. How long did it take in your case? And were there blacked-out parts, or did you get the names of the Securitate officers who were assigned to the case? I know as of Feb2008, they cannot be prosecuted anymore, but that would not be my intent, anyway – I just want to know all that happened, what was said about us, and what kind of information they have on my parents. So – how long is the process? And what was the cost? If you have a lawyer/notary you can recommend, I’d really appreciate it.

Please feel free to respond here or email me privately – I understand Romanian perfectly (only bad at writing it), so you can contact me in either language.

Posted in censorship, communism, politics, revolution, romania, securitate, writer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

WTF is the problem with Young People F*cking?

Posted by E on June 13, 2008

As so many of you are aware, a little independent film, which may or may not have any artistic value (I haven’t seen it yet, and even if I did, my subjective opinion has no bearing on this post) has splashed into the news, solely because of its cheeky title: Young People F*cking.

Now I don’t really know anything much about it except having heard some convoluted news reports involving Canada Arts Grants and public outrage, of the sort that goes something like: “Is this what our tax dollars are going to,” yadda, yadda, yadda.

Not that I find Arts Grants judges to be much more than an inbred, pat-each-other’s-backs sort, but ask yourself this: If this title should have been called any of the titles below, would anybody in the media have batted an eye, never mind sensationalise it to such a degree that now it is receiving top billing at film fests (as the filmmakers undoubtedly intended)?
Young People Killing
Young People being raped and murdered by psycho cannibals
Young People dismembering each other
Young People blowing each other’s heads off
Young People being torn to shreds and eaten by wild dogs
Young People being murdered by eccentric millionaires in Slovakian torture chambers
Young People being disemboweled by crazy hillbillies
Young People being hunted down by serial killers at roadside stops
Young People cannibalizing each other

Well, what do you think? Would Bill C-10 approve of any of the above? Most likely, if it’s anything like the garbage being produced by Hollywood and the television industry over the last few years? So — how many of those titles I just listed sum up any of the films you might have seen over the past year or so?

Of course, all of that gory, gross stuff is nothing compared to the rather insipid, vacuous act of Young People Fucking.

Well, at least it wasn’t called Young GAY People Fucking. It wouldn’t even make it past the screening room.

Posted in canada, censorship, commentary, culture, gay, media, movie, movie review, news, political correctness, politics, rant, thoughts, violence, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Haunting of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Posted by E on May 1, 2008

Back when I began to write some of the posts that would bring me the most attention, controversy and praise – posts on adoption, deaf culture, art, and growing up under communism – I never would have dreamed that a simple article that I wrote over the course of an hour would become my most popular post. My article on Sophie Scholl currently generates hundreds of hits every day. It never fails to amaze me how even now, decades after this young girl’s speedy trial and execution, that so many people from all over the world still enter her name in search engines.

I believe there is an innate magnetism around her story, an aura of “everyman” that pulls a spectator into her life. Vicariously, we hunger for the sort of stoic bravery and unabated faith that she had in her convictions.

The story of the White Rose is close to my heart, and it came long before the movies made her a coffee table name in North America. I have witnessed underground printing presses where people wielded the written word as weapon, and been witness to all the joy and horror of a world gone mad. I choose to keep those stories to myself, unwilling still to share all I have seen. 

But there is something universal about this – a repetition of lives, a reincarnation of convinction that infuses the hearts of all who have ever been part of an underground political movement. This is why so many people search her out, this Sophie girl, and what she embodies: fearlessness in a regime of fear, faith in her own self in a world where personal identity is sacrificed to a collective state of mind-numbness.

The White Rose haunts all of us who have ever wanted to change the world. It is our hope that someday, the seeds of our actions will grow into the forests of a world where all can be free to speak their minds – politically incorrect or not – without fear and oppression.

Too often the Left has been sidetracked with the political agendas of many who would take away people’s rights to have their own ideas. Yet they will triumphantly wave the example of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose as a feather in the socialist cap. So do bland, neo-socialist liberal Arts Grants committees that espouse fairness and oneness for all, but withdraw funding of controversial projects, penalizing any work that breathes creativity and/or controversy.

But this is not what the White Rose symbolized! Sophie, her brother Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Christoph Probst, along with their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber, all were executed for speaking their minds. These young people died because they published leaflets that commanded people to THINK! To break free of the mould of their oppressive national socialist regime.
To me, the White Rose will always be a harbinger of the freedom of ideas, of expression, of thought – whoever they belong to. Because ultimately, everyone deserves to have their own voice, as morally-repugnant as it may sound to some.

This is the fundamental truth: Ideas do not massacre people. Ideas on their own do not torch neighbourhoods, incite race-riots or instigate hate attacks. PEOPLE do that – people who have so much hate inside themselves that it bursts out into the world like an explosion. And these people come in all colours and all religions, and of all political affiliations.  

Every race and religion is capable of violence. Curtailing ideas is only insulting the intelligence of the masses, which every doctrine considers no more intelligent than sheep. Despite what you hear through the mass media propaganda machine, the reality is that everybody can kill.

Blacks kill. Whites kill. Muslims kill people in western European neighbourhoods. Religious fundamentalists stone women to death if they dare show their ankles underneath their burkas. Christians torture and kill indigenous people in Latin Americas and the Middle East. Jews kill. Arabs kill. Communists kill. Fascists kill. Husbands kill wives. Mothers kill children.

Everybody kills.

But murder is carried out because of hatred, and hatred does not needs ideas to propagate itself. Ideas are merely used as an excuse. Ideas are the flimsy excuse behind which the true nature of hatred resides: fear, jealousy, desire for more than what the neighbour has. These are universal, primal urges. The active banning of ideas under the auspices of them being “politically-incorrect” serves only to deny the deeper roots of hatred and division.

This is the propaganda of the world we live in, a place where voices of dissent are moderated and quashed at every opportunity.

I am reminded of a saying by Voltaire that has enjoyed revived popularity: I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

To me, this is what the legacy of Sophie Scholl is all about. This is why I will always remember the actions of Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst and Professor Kurt Huber, and Sophie herself.

She is me. She is you. Sophie haunts us all. She is a part of all of us who carry inside ourselves the childish idealism of a future where all can live, breathe, and have the right to have our own thoughts without censorship.
 

 

Posted in activism, censorship, commentary, culture, politics, sophie scholl, thoughts, war, white rose | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Cuban Regime is that much closer to its inevitable end

Posted by E on February 19, 2008

fidel-picks-nose.jpg

So Fidel Castro has finally hopped off his self-imposed throne. Good riddance. Why is everyone acting like this is such a big deal? Ever since he practically keeled over last year, hardly anyone had seen him and frankly, I had my doubts that he hadn’t already gone the way of Mao – you know, stuffed with formaldehyde, encased in wax, and brought out between the hours of 9 to 5 to be on display in the Central Committee building.

World-wide, socialists are hopping around like surviving monkeys in a post-ebola village, trying to do damage control, snarkily retorting to anyone who would suggest this is the End of an Era, that “You see, the regime didn’t end with Fidel, you see…his brother will continue the legacy. So for all of you’s who thought this would be the end, it’s not, so…na-na-na-na-na!”

Ya, right. Cuba is now going to be passed into the shaky hands of a 76-year-old man whose only claim to fame is to have been begotten from the same loins that sprung forth our dear and beloved People’s Comrade Fidel. I’m sure that will certainly add a vote of confidence to the world.

So what’s going to happen? Absolutely nothing. For a couple weeks, months or years, anyway. Then, when the last old man to share in the glory of the trademarked Fidel has gone the way of his brother, the shit will hit the fan – as we all know, even ardent communists cannot resist the wild call of Power. In the mad scramble for succession, all those foreign companies that are investing in Cuba now will calmly and collectively trade in their bargaining chips.

This will not be a revolution of blood, fire and honour. I predict that Cuban communism will unravel slowly, muddily, one regulation after the other falling by the wayside of an unpaved road, until nobody will recognize it for what it was ever supposed to be.

I don’t understand why so many readers of my Cuban posts have assumed that since I am anti-Fidel dictatorship, I must a pro-US bourgeois capitalist pig. The reality is, I wholeheartedly wish for Cubans to have the same freedom and opportunities that most other countries take for granted. One day, I hope to see food in Cuban grocery stores, roads paved, and people with smiles on their faces, who are able to travel abroad, to study anywhere they want to, and who can read newspapers and use the internet as much as the rest of us.

Switching back to Castro for the last time. As he reflected on his glorious past, Fidel was quoted yesterday:

“My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer. But, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.”

The irony. With the end of this drama, another, more lukewarm one is about to begin. In these days of stupor and self-denial, nobody has the bandwidth anymore to carry out a full-fledged revolution.
This article from the New York Times depicts the sense of frustration on the streets of Havana today. Most people are not so much interested in socialist dogma, but about how the Communist system has failed them.

The bus system is a wreck, they say. Food is too expensive, they grouse. Why are hotels limited to foreigners? And why are there two currencies, one for foreigners and a far less useful one for Cubans?

It is those reforms that seem to matter most to Cubans, not a reshuffling — even a dramatic one like this — of the government’s organizational chart.

So, I bid you Adios, Fidel. The only question that remains is – are you picking your nose in the photo above, or are you giving us all the inconspicuous middle finger?

Posted in activism, censorship, commentary, communism, cuba, fidel castro, freedom, media, news, politics, press, revolution | 2 Comments »

Orwellian student suspension over creative writing exercise

Posted by E on February 5, 2008

I awoke to today’s news at noon, and the insane story of a grade 12 student being suspended over a creative writing piece. The school’s justification for involving police and suspending the student: the ending culminates with a teacher being killed by a student.

 Check it out here: Story

They could have interpreted the story more than a dozen ways: as an expression of what is going on in schools today, as a literal commentary on student-teacher relations…but no. Cops have to be called in.

This makes me wonder: why are the writers of CSI Miami, Law&Order, and Numbers (to name a few), the producers and script-writers of gory flicks like Saw and Hostel arrested immediately? Why are they not interred in special custody in a barbed-wire encampment a la Guantanamo Bay and occasionally poked with pitchforks? Why aren’t all the creators of blood & gore video games arrested right on the spot? Like, today?

If you are going to stand there and justify punishing a student for a creative writing exercise that would make Stephen King giddy with excitement, then why not punish the world of which he is a mere by-product? Why ruin his chances of getting into university? Would this not actually feed any deep-seated fantasies he may harbour over doing away with his teacher – that is, since we are expected to accept this school’s decision on the premise that there was something in that story that made them want to run off and get a restraining order.

Oh wait…I know. They’re thinking of that crazy Korean guy who massacred dozens at Virginia Tech…and nobody did anything about the violent fantasies in his creative writing. But wait, other than writing some shitty fiction pieces, that guy actually harassed two students, threatened others, and scared his entire class to the point that they had him thrown out of it.

Did this Brendan Jones kid do any of these things? No. He merely handed in a homework assignment that had not been prefaced by: You can write only about pretty, lovely things, but you can’t write anything about violence in the society you are surrounded by.

Good going, you academically-stunted Heart Lake Secondary staff/jerks. How about you pass a mandate to preface every assignment your creatively-challenged staff hand out with: You shall write only that which your teacher would like to read.

Otherwise, why don’t you stick to marking the creative writing papers (gee, isn’t the very definition of “Creative” Writing that it is creative? Read: fiction) based solely on their scholastic, grammatical and topical merits, and leave your perversely-flawed subjectivity out of it.

.

Posted in canada, censorship, commentary, culture, freedom, ignorance, media, news, ontario, politics, propaganda, rant, stupidity, teaching, toronto, writer, writing, wtf | 6 Comments »

Memories of my communist childhood – growing up under the red banner

Posted by E on December 28, 2007

 

 

After my last post, in which I wrote about my impressions of Cuba, I received some mixed feedback – exactly half of the commentators were against the Cuban regime, and half advocating earnestly for it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle room for discussion when it comes to communist systems of government, does it? I’m not entirely sure what a middle ground would look like, but like any other battle of sectarian ideologies, this battle-line is drawn down the middle with a clearly-defined marker.

My opinions differ from most people I know, not necessarily in their ideology as much as from the formative experiences that have shaped who I am. I am a product of a so-called utopian society that like most others, found its end in a bloody revolution. There are many who still long for the good old times, simply because nobody ever was taught to think for themselves. For many decades, the people of my homeland were brought up to fear what was above them, the Golden Father of all Children, and when his regime fell so many older people didn’t know how to take care of themselves since they had always relied on the state to provide, to teach, and to think for them.

I was one of Ceausescu’s last batch of communism-raised children. We were an experimental generation of youth raised under the shade of a red star, in the Golden Epoch of our Fatherland. Our homeland, our Patria, was what we swore allegiance to. In grade 2, I received my Red Scarf and became a Pioneer. I remember that day clearly – for weeks I practiced memorizing a poem about our Great Father Nicolae Ceausescu that I later recited flawlessly in front of the Pioneer Assembly. In grade 3 I was stripped of one of my pioneer medals because my mother was a political defector. My father and I were followed by the Securitate for two years while we waited for our departure papers under the Red Cross Family Reunification program. In grade 4 I learned how to shoot a rifle. Officially, I became a child soldier for our homeland.

I loved my country. I truly, deeply appreciate that I had the opportunity to grow up sheltered from violence, from materialism, from being over-sexualized at an early age. I loved my uniform, my internal sense of fairness truly appreciating the equality that this white shirt and pleated navy skirt represented: all children, gypsies, christians, jews, all faiths and social classes brought together under one flag, one song, one classroom.

At the same time, I saw a country brought to its knees under the weight of its foreign exports. All of our rich resources were being exported to pay for Romania’s increasing debtload, a debt incurred as part of Ceausescu’s attempts at civilizing its people from its bourgeois roots: churches and villages were raised to the ground in order to pave roads and build collective farms and factories. People were reduced to a name on a ration card, one kilogram of flour and sugar per month, a litre of oil. Nothing more or less.

I remember standing in those lines: the line for bread, for butter, for meat, for books – any leftover money from people’s salaries was spent in a desperate attempt to buy food. There was never enough food for everybody. You could line up at 5 a.m. and it still didn’t guarantee there would be enough left by the time your turn came to the cashier. People made a habit of lining up: they didn’t know what kind of meat would be available at the butcher’s that day, but they arrived promptly at 5 in the morning, always five in the morning – for bread, for clothing, for various amenities.

And what did those people do in those lines? They laughed, they cried, they cursed “Him” who could not be named, but everybody knew – we were all co-conspirators, well-versed in the language of innuendos, scathing jokes and trepidation. Unlike the socialist red banner we lived in, nobody loved their neighbour. Everybody was jealous of each other – tried to figure out who had more, how they got it, and if we could get it too. People called secret, anonymous phone lines and denunced their neighbours for nothing more than a move to a better apartment or a better job assignment.

Under the red banner, I knew hunger, I knew pain, and what I experienced most of all – was fear. A deep, breath-taking fear that crushed your voice inside your ribs. You didn’t look up, you didn’t ask Why, you just obeyed. I knew people who worked at collective farms who went to jail for holding back a chicken from the monthly counts, just to feed their families a bit more protein. Only those who worked for the Party, the State, the Securitate, would have access to foreign currency and could go to that wondurous place we only heard stories about: the Shop. At the Shop, you could buy toblerone bars and Nescafe coffee, and loads of products we spied foreign tourists being served in fancy restaurants. Unfortunately, I never bought anything at the Shop. It was not for people like us. While Ceausescu was building the second-largest palace in the world after the Taj-Mahal, replete with gold bathroom fixtures, I remained underweight for my age.

Sometimes I wonder if anybody who glorifies a system like that of Romania, the Eastern Bloc, like Cuba and China’s, has ever lived inside this world. I don’t wonder this very often since I already know the answer: they have not. Nobody who has lived inside this world of sensory and emotional deprivation would wish for it again. Sure, nowadays Romanians will grumble that: “Before we had money but no food, now we have lots of food but no money to buy it.” But if questioned again about their past, their eyes glaze over and deep sighs can be heard. The emotional blackness of those days will always scar the lining of our souls.

Ceausescu meant well. So did Marx, and Che, and even Adolf (yes, I am mixing political affiliations!). Nobody starts out with the desire to massacre the spirit of their nation. But through deeds that are meant to be “for the good of others”, the result remains the same. Atrocity and sadness remains the legacy of so many regimes where scores of nameless people perish in the name of a warped ideology. Even after the 1989 Revolution, the scars remain, and they will remain there, imprinted on my heart, for the rest of my life.

I miss my childhood, the people I will never see again, the friends and neighbours who we have lost touch with, who all fled in the night to Australia, America, and Europe. One day you had lunch with somebody, the next day they were gone – and you didn’t know whether they had been arrested or paid someone to smuggle them over the border. As for myself, I never wanted to leave my homeland – I was dragged, kicking and screaming, away from it at age 10. In retrospect, it was already too late – I inherited my country’s history in my genes; its pulse beat in my veins like a tumultuous river. Even when citizenship was forcibly stripped from me as a defector, I remained Romanian. It was a thing they could never take away.

Nowadays, when I meet other Romanians I search for the legacy of the terror in their eyes: there is a darkness there, always, a haunted look that lies behind their smiles, their happy countenance. I see other survivors of my generation, other experimental byproducts of a world where walls cound talk, and where a whisper could mean exile. We walk like aliens among Canadians in this country, like wolves in sheep’s clothing – we are not of your world, this world of smiles and polite conversations. We are survivors of something that cannot be fathomed by those who are fortunate enough to have been born here.

I came from a world where being a lesbian would have meant a mandatory five-year jail sentence with hard labour. A world where my writing would be censored and condemned. Where my poetry would have to be dedicated to the Party. Where my life would forever remain not a burning flame, but a sigh.

I have realized that those people who continue the lovely fairytale of a communist utopia surely must not have experienced it. To be perfectly honest, I would absolutely love it if a true socialist state could exist in this world – a state of egalitarianism where all are cared for and provided by a loving government. But that will never happen, since it is not within the boundaries of human nature – it is by default that we strive to compete with each other, to outdo each other’s accomplishments, to work harder and seek greater peaks than those of our neighbours’. By default, true socialism cannot work. I have met leftists who said to me “Oh, but Elisa dear, what you experienced wasn’t truly communism, but state capitalism.” Because of course, they considered themselves experts of socialist systems, and every time one failed, it was attributed to the fact that “Well, that wasn’t REALLY socialism anyway, or a failed attempt at communism.” This came from well-meaning but confused activists, naive individuals who refused to acknowledge that every failure of communism over the last hundred years has been a sign of its instability and profound inability to ever be implemented.

Because as tough and hard-core a leftist as you can be, when you are inside oppression and you suffer in silence, you have but one of two choices: become the enemy, or be broken. On the tree-lined boulevards of Bucharest, in Moscow’s squares, on Beijing’s winding streets, and in the slums of Havana, people survived the only way they know how: a breath at a time.

To all deniers of oppression worldwide – shame on you. What is so quickly forgotten is destined to be repeated.

Posted in activism, canada, censorship, children, communism, cuba, freedom, gay, lesbian, life, politics, propaganda, revolution, romania, russia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Reflecting on my visit to Cuba

Posted by E on December 25, 2007

So I’ve been back from Cuba for about two days now, which is just about how long I’ve needed to get over the vacation, sunburn and trauma of leaving the sunshine behind and being air-packed like a Polish sausage into the tiniest airplane seat I’ve ever sat in…and this is coming from me, the queen of budget airlines.

The vacation itself was sunny and lovely, this being my first time visiting Cuba – of course I fell in love with the azure blueness of the Caribbean sea, as much as I fell in hate with the system of unabashed oppression in this country.

People made due, of course. They adapt under any circumstances.

Late at night, hotel staff snuck into the Internet room to check world news and their emails; on a sunset walk on the beach, we came across another employee carefully clipping out articles from an international newspaper some tourist abandoned on the beach. Earlier in the day, we bought bootleg rum from the bar server – who snuck us into the back of the bar and sold us a tall bottle of Havana Club for four pesos.

Everyone tries to make their way through a system that now has decided to attack its own people with its advent of the cuban peso convertible – an odd, makeshift currency that simultaneously attempts to copy the euro, take advantage of tourists, and rip off its own citizens. Nowadays, waiters, bartenders and chambermaids make more in a month, after tips, that doctors, lawyers and government officials do.

It’s sick.

The country is turning topsy-turvy, with the elites being those who work in the tourism trade, and the intellectual professions becoming less paid, and less regarded as something to strive toward. One of our waiters had been a Spanish teacher for seventeen years and confessed that he had always wanted to teach and worked hard to achieve that distinction. However, he chose to don a waiter’s outfit in order to make significantly more money, though the hours are long and he has to commute for many hours while working six days a week.

The ones who suffer the most in Cuba are the people who are not associated with tourism, who do not have access to the new “cuban convertible peso” currency, which is 25 to 1 the rate of the regular people’s peso. Those people see the nike shoes and brand name clothing being purchased by rich Cubans from specialty shops, and are getting angrier.

We took trips into local towns and the poverty is sickening. I predict the Cuban government will fall in the next 2-3 years. Maybe sooner. Who knows if Fidel is even alive? I have my doubts – nobody has seen him since his health problems last year. I don’t believe that the propaganda writings of Che adorning the walls of the sugar and tabacco factories we visited will hold back the masses of dissafected youth who hang out on the streets, find ways to access the outside world through internet and word of mouth, and ache to travel outside their suffocating little island.

I felt like crying, because I knew, I totally knew that if I had been born in Cuba, I too would follow those who desperately do anything to escape – in rafts, in boats, in anything that would get me out. Cuba is such a beautiful country, but if you are trapped, unable to think or travel anywhere, even paradise can become a horrifying place.

I remembered the oppression of growing up in Romania, and how we left just two years before the Revolution. But even in Romania, people could sometimes travel. I cannot fathom a more oppressive government than Cuba – excluding of course the Middle Eastern nations who would rather stone a woman to death than allow her to go to the market by herself, or have a strand of hair show through the burke.

Religion and ideology are the same. The opium of the masses, the poison of free thought, the exile of humanity from this world.

Posted in censorship, commentary, communism, cuba, freedom, life, politics, propaganda, religion, revolution, romania, thoughts, women | 6 Comments »

Blogging for independence in Burma

Posted by E on September 28, 2007

myanmar_blog.jpg 

Decades ago, back in 1988 to be precise, when bloodshed last erupted in Burma, thousands of student protesters were killed behind closed doors. Today it is a different story. The biggest story yet is not only the footage of peaceful Buddhist monks being fired upon by the army, but the individual acts of revolt that aim to spread the word about the violence on the streets of Rangoon.

Blogging for Political Change: Myanmar’s Dissidents is an ABC news article that depicts some of the struggles encountered by Burmese bloggers who are trying to get the word out via internet forums and online journals.

Censorship is not something new, and dissidence in the form of smuggled correspondence has been around far before the age of internet. However, nothing has reached as many people as fast as spreading news through this medium. Let’s hope that those nameless brave bloggers, wherever they are, will somehow sense and be empowered by all the support directed at them throughout the free world.

Posted in blogger, blogging, buddhism, burma, censorship, commentary, freedom, media, myanmar, news, politics, press, revolution | 1 Comment »