Posts Tagged ‘media’

Water off a duck’s back

August 31, 2010

The rains have started falling here in Vancouver. It’s the kind of rain that brings with it a feeling it won’t end any time soon. My two youngest children are at a neighbour’s house playing inside with their kids, and two neighbourhood kids are here inside playing with my oldest. We’re all inside today.

We took advantage of the weather and cleaned the aquarium, after a month or so of neglect. This summer has been a whirlwind of daily activity. It’s a local motto “If the sun is shining, we go outside.” or “the tv is off” there are local variants to the motto, but the point is, sunshine is a precious resource not to be squandered.  Greenie, however, seems to enjoy her overgrown space. Greenie is a five year old Green Terror. She lives alone. Here’s another lesson picked up quite spontaneously by a five year old, “If you don’t want to be lonely, don’t eat your friends.” That sort of sums up the long and sordid tale of our aquarium’s inhabitants.

Greenie, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

And now I’m taking advantage of the weather to catch up on some writing. I tend to plan to write more than I ever in fact write. I even write about what I plan to write instead of actually writing, but those who write know planning is the easy part, actual writing is hard and takes time. Writers love rainy climates. Tom Robbins writes an ode to the writerly Northwestern climate in his Ducks Flying Backwards. If you live on the wet coast and write, you should read this.

I’ve been meaning for months to write up Alternatives to Growth. The praise for the book is on its website, and inside the book’s front cover, so I don’t need to add to that. What I’d like to do right now is situate it in a discussion of the Left about the Left. I say “like to” because I don’t think I’m quite capable of doing that sufficiently, but I have a vague idea, and we’ll find out soon enough just how inarticulable it is.

I’m a lay-writer,meaning not part of the academic left, not an expert/master, so the left I will be writing of may be neither the common nor the academic concept of left.  There’s nothing more common than newspaper columnists, so when I came across Rick Salutin’s article on the Left, I suffered that motion sickness so often caused by immaterial logic. In this article, Salutin holds a concept of the left, he looks in two places, doesn’t see his concept of the left and in newspaper writer style concludes in his opening that the left doesn’t exist; equating the left with a phantom limb.

For Salutin the Left is manifest in a political party and plays its role of difference within the hierarchy.

More marginal parties, like the old Reform or the old CCF-NDP, play a different role: they float innovative ideas like populist democracy or socialism. But a narrow focus on power means a shrinking focus on those ideas. Why notions like democracy or socialism, which have (or had) lots of general appeal, fare so poorly in an electoral context is a mystery I’ll leave for a more contemplative time.

The left is a historical concept for Salutin. It would be too simple to dismiss Salutin as a relic, because upon a deeper reading this little article totally blows my mind. Someone once said that we see things as we are. You can follow that line to a conclusion that to know the world you must know yourself. This line is often corrupted by new age spiritualists who fixate on knowing your true self, and then discounted as new age spiritualism by more realistic thinkers who fixate on objective reality. Salutin’s writing shows this type of error. He holds an idea of a real left. When he looks in the world for this reality he can’t perceive it.

There’s an old anarchist line that the problem with scientists is that there are too few of them. Salutin could benefit from a more scientific method in his writing. This article is exemplary. It’s incredibly short, but contains a whole world of conceptual confusion. Salutin is literally writing down things he can’t see. The concept he’s looking for is blocking his vision, but his senses are in working order.

If you’re a genuine left commentator like Yves Engler (Who? you say) with four good books to your credit, you probably financed your magnum opus on Canadian foreign policy by working nights at a Montreal hotel and only rarely sneak onto those left-wing channels.

Here Salutin reveals a “genuine left commentator” but because this writer is rarely published in the mainstream, and because right wing confusionists complain of the left wing mainstream, Salutin concluded that there is no left wing media, and this is generalized into no left, even though he can clearly see Yves Engler.

He introduces us to one of the left and then asks:

where is the phantom Canadian left? Who is it? Is it?

Then he goes on to say that “there’s lots of left activity but not much definition.” I’m not exactly sure how to read this. There is “left activity” but no left? Whose definition is at issue here?

The old centrepiece of socialism is either missing or under heavy, tentative reconstruction. (I’d put my money on an anarchist version.) Unions, once the left’s backbone, are in serious decline precisely when most working people need a way to resist the power of an increasingly compact corporate sector. It’s unclear whether labour can rejig itself to meet that need. There’s lots of disparate activism to support foreign “struggles” (Haiti, Free Gaza) along with environmentalism, save public health care, etc. But in mainstream party politics, or in the mainstream media — Poof! Now you see them, now you don’t.

He again tells of left actions but that they’re not mainstream, or even acknowledged by the mainstream he can’t see a left. What’s amazing is that the mainstream media’s trick of denying dissent any logic or rationale, and sometimes the very existence of dissent, this form of magic, this slight of mind has confused Salutin to the point that he can’t even see what he’s written down.

It’s within this confusion that I will be discussing, another genuine left commentator, Conrad Schmidt’s work. (at some point in the future).

Drop (Quote)

July 3, 2009

Here’s Jacques Derrida in an interview:

We are all mediators, translators. In philosophy, as in all domains, you have to reckon with, while not ever being sure of it, the implicit level of an accumulated reserve, and thus with a very great number of relays (teaching, newspapers, journals, books, media), with the shared responsibility of these relays. Why is it apparently the philosopher who is expected to be “easier” and not some scientist or other who is even more inaccessible to the same readers? And why not the writer, who can invent, break new paths only in “difficulty,” by taking the risks of a reception that is slow to come, discreet, mistaken, or impossible? In truth–here is another complication–I believe that it is always a “writer” who is accused of being “unreadable,” as you put it, that is, someone who is engaged in an explanation with language, the economy of language, the codes and the channels of what is the most receivable.

The accused is thus someone who re-establishes contact between the corpora and the ceremonies of several dialects. If he or she is a philosopher, then it’s because he or she speaks neither in a purely academic milieu, with the language, rhetoric, and customs that are in force there, nor in that “language of everyone” which we all know does not exist.

Things became virulent (since it’s the case, isn’t it, and fortunately so, that people do not always complain about those they cannot read) when, after some books on Husserl, I accelerated or aggravated a certain contamination of the genres. “Mixing the genres,” people thought, but that’s not the right word. So certain readers resented me perhaps when they could no longer recognize their territory, their “being-at-home” or “among-themselves,” their institution, or–still worse–when these were being perceived from this angle or this distance…

Thinking about media democracy for a while now… (Here are the notes from the public consultation to democratically organize Media Democracy Day.) There are two lines from the above quote that I want to think more about, or at least point out now for future consideration. The first is that we are all mediators. This is an important idea for any proposal for media democracy. I like the way Derrida makes the statement, and then explains the difficulty of being what we are. We must reckon with a reserve and relays, of which we can never be sure, and of which we share responsibility. And the second line is that we all know the “language of everyone” does not exist.

Note: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 2:5

Summer Veloloving

June 29, 2009

Bike Month Critical Mass

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

I want to put down some notes. First is a link to a post on the Google Public Policy Blog. The post states that “there’s an open government revolution afoot in British Columbia.” And while this might be overstating the case a bit the City of Vancouver has passed a motion to open its data to the public.

the city hopes to promote civic engagement, improve decision-making, and deepen accountability.

I’m just going to leave that quote there like that for now.

The second link is to the Toronto Star’s June 17 edition. Here’s an interesting bit…

There has long been skepticism over the effect of New Brunswick’s media concentration on coverage. The Irvings own all three English dailies and most weeklies, as well as radio stations. With stakes in oil, forestry and other industries, the family’s wealth has been estimated at $3.9 billion by Forbes magazine.

Efforts made over the decades to break the family’s media hold have failed, despite the scrutiny of at least three federal inquiries. A 2006 Senate report stated that “the Irvings’ corporate interests form an industrial-media complex that dominates the province” to a degree “unique in developed countries.”

At the Senate hearing, journalists and academics cited Irving newspapers’ lack of critical reporting on the family’s influential businesses.

One critic, sociology professor Erin Steuter, said the Irving papers’ perspective “tends to be pro-business, anti-labour and very self-serving toward their own interests.”

How does this situation differ from anywhere else in Canada?

To end on a positive note the Critical Mass Ride was amazing. There were thousands out. What a great feeling to be a part of the swarm.

I’m going out as often as I can this summer. I’ll be heading to the Crab Park Festival on Wednesday with a small bicycle convoy. If you’re interested in pedalling with us get in touch.

Media Democracy — What is to be done?

May 28, 2009

Here’s a very short post about last night…

Raul at Hummingbird 604 wrote about the Where’s the Money in Media? panel.

they’ve said things that I’ve already heard, so that’s why I am slightly distracted. I mean, we all know that the newspapers and news outlets are in crisis. I don’t think they (the panelists) nor us (the public) have a response or a policy option that we can offer/suggest.

And early this morning in another conversation about the event the talk turned to a lack of solutions.

How do we make media democratic? I’ve got some ideas, but then this wouldn’t be a short post anymore…

[update] more links:

Video and Audio of the panellists:
http://www.workingtv.com/money.media.html

Vancouver Independent Media Asks ‘Where’s the Money?’
http://www.newslab.ca/

Georgia Straight on CBC layoffs: http://www.straight.com/article-224051/cbc-eliminates-26-jobs-vancouver-according-union-rep

Vancouver Observer: http://www.thevancouverobserver.com/show1255a1s/CBC_Layoffs_Murdoch_Poised_to_Pounce_on_Canwest_Stock

Net Neutrality Campaign

February 9, 2009

Net Neutrality - Net Tuesday

Here’s Steve Anderson and Kris Krug (sitting) at January’s Net Tuesday. They’re letting Vancouver’s social net scene in on the issue of Net Neutrality. (You can read all about it on humminbird604’s blog.) The two of them are also in an informative video about Net Neutrality at Vancouver I Am.

Net Neutrality is important for anyone concerned about Canadian democracy, and that’s pretty much everyone, so let the CRTC’s decision makers know what you think. You can send a letter from here to make your voice heard.

Canadians must seize this opportunity to tell the CRTC that it must ensure we have an open, fast and accessible Internet in this country.

I’m shocked and appalled

September 2, 2007

This portrait by John Allemang is a collection of meaty bones for the enemies of Naomi Klein to gnaw on. From the first line: ” If there’s anyone who knows the ins and outs of a successful marketing campaign, it’s Naomi Klein.” Allemang keeps a cynical distance to the point where any possibility of communicating Klein’s message is lost.

He calls “intellectual culture” a “commodity” and refers to Klein’s work as a “successful brand of activism-for-our-times has always had a soft spot for the hot new thing.”

And he’s downright dismissive of “the masses, whoever they now may be?” As well as Klein’s work which he more or less relegates to a world of her own; “Does that make sense? In Ms. Klein’s world, these are givens.”

The one thing I don’t understand is Klein’s complicity is the comparison of the left with religious tradition and a form of inheritance. How could she allow the left to be written up as an elitist family tradition?

It’s funny to read the comments from writers who view the article as ass kissing, even the article’s title is a Seinfeld joke. All in all it’s a reductive piece. Somehow, regardless, I’ve got an inkling the book will rise above it.

Re: Let the objections finally cease

March 16, 2007

I wrote and sent this letter to the editor at the Globe and Mail:

As a Canadian who takes as fact the First Nations’ responsibility for their own lives and communities, I’d like to answer John Ibbitson’s question, “So what are you doing to help them reach that independence?”

First and finally, I’m not suggesting we take away their autonomy regarding self-education. Integration is not, as he writes, “the only solution.” The last time Ibbitson made this suggestion (Dec. 21/06) Phil Fontaine (national chief, Assembly of First Nations) replied, “our dedicated leaders and educational professionals have developed a plan that will more effectively meet our needs.”


It wasn’t printed.

Just as a note, I use “we” (italicized in the letter) very self consciously. Ibbitson draws his readers into this “we.” He writes:

Let’s say to each other: We will bring status and non-status Indian, Inuit and Métis high-school completion rates up to national average in this generation, and we will not let jurisdictional disputes, funding shortfalls or anything else keep us from reaching that goal. And we will hold our politicians, our native leadership and most important ourselves to account.


I am a part of this we, and bothered by the inclusion. I become an actor in a conspiracy, a conspiracy I want no part of, and must respond with “we.” And there is a conspiracy here. “Integrating native schools into the provincial school systems is the only solution,” A conspiracy against First Nations autonomy.

Another note, When Fontaine writes “our dedicated leadership” and Ibbitson writes “our native leadership” the same possessive pronoun refers to different groups.

And another note: Ibbitson writes:

Those close to the issue are shaking their heads. They know the federal government would never surrender jurisdiction, the provincial governments would never agree to assume it and native leaders would never give up control.

We’re shaking our heads in Ibbitson’s mind because of what we know? But he’s proposed the solution, what he goes on to call the only solution:

The solution would be for Ottawa and native leaders to let provincial governments — who actually know how to run an education system — assume full responsibility for native schools.

For the record I’m not shaking my head, but if I were it wouldn’t be for the reasons Ibbitson puts forth. First is the repeated proposal of integration that Ibbitson is making. There’s a question; What are his intentions? The last time he made the suggestion the native response was clear, they’ve got it under control. So this second proposal, essentially ignoring the First Nations response, has got to be questioned. I don’t have an answer, just a question; What are his intentions?

Next, the interjection, “who actually know how to run a school system,” might provide the answer to why Ibbitson ignores the First Nations response. The First Nations are obviously not “who” for Ibbitson. This is actually offensive. All the more so, when you consider the influence the provincial education systems have had in the north. The provincial education system doesn’t work for low income kids.

And third, why wouldn’t the federal government want to drop this hot potato? Why wouldn’t the provincial governments take the money? Most kids fly out for high school already, integration wouldn’t be much of a change. These two objections are fabrications to make it look like the First Nations aren’t the only ones who don’t want this.

The First Nations are in an excellent position to experiment within education and find different practices that work in their many different communities, languages and cultures. There can not be an “only solution” when it comes to education in the north.

I now know why the question “How Canadian are you?” bothers me.

On Architecture of Education

December 23, 2006

A couple days ago John Ibbitson wrote “Native education is in crisis, and it’s everyone’s failure” in the Globe and Mail. In the column under the pretense of education he pushes for a move on native governance. He writes, “Provincial governments know how to deliver education, and would do the best job of running native education programs.”

I’d suggest Ibbitson look a little more critically into the ideas on which he so comfortably rests. Provincial governments are failing to educate children from lower economic situations. There are studies that show this. So sending provincial programs into these economically deprived areas will only reveal our education system for what it is.

Today native education is modeled on provincial programs. That’s why it’s failing. Studies show that children of university graduates are more likely to go to university. Others show that children who are read to daily perform better in school than children who are not. And children in low income situations are less likely to have an educated parent. Those low income children are also less likely to have a parent who reads to them. It’s clear that a child’s success or failure can be accurately predicted by what is happening outside the school. That’s because provincial schools simply exercise the education children receive at home.

If child who isn’t educated at home will not succeed in school,  what exactly is happening in schools? Our education system doesn’t work. It fails to educate the poorest students in the provincial system, and as it is modeled in native communities it fails there also. If you look at the professions that matter, architecture, medicine, law, for example, and compare their training to the eight months a teacher sails through, you can see that teaching doesn’t stack up. Qualification, in the case of teachers, does not translate as ability. The reality is that ability to teach isn’t necessary for qualification. Kids come to school with the skills that are being exercised in the classroom, or they fail. There is no teaching. And when these kids fail, we are all failing. Imagine an architect who’s been hired to build on poor soil. Our society needs building to stand up so we’ve got a collection of over-educated constantly learning professionals working to rigid standards, who are strictly judged and highly regarded for what they do. If the building fails, the architects and the engineers fail. Because of this there are a variety of building techniques for building on a variety of surfaces.

That the tools to educate are traditional as opposed to scientific, that the duration of teacher training is about an eighth of the highly regarded professions, and that standards of education slip while the standards in other professions rise, speaks more strongly to the crisis in Native education, the education of Canada’s underclass, than any allocation of funds. An analogy would be throwing money at front line doctors to cure a disease before the treatment has been developed.

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