Robocall – Not so Tough on Crime Now

For a party which hasn’t technically been named accomplice in the ‘Robocall’ scandal, the amount of subterfuge that the Conservatives have been dealing in certainly seems to suggest the contrary. Scheduling Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer at Election’s Canada to appear in parliament on a day when the media is locked out is more than just convenient; it bears the unmistakable marks of attempting to sweet something under the rug and forget about it.

Elections Canada has concrete proof that thousands of calls were made. RackNine, the communications company responsible for the calls, has confirmed what has happened and is helping with the investigation. Voters themselves are presenting formal complaints, along with evidence that they were mislead on election day to go to non-existent polling stations. To make matters worse, it wasn’t an isolated phenomenon; it happened all across the country.

In the face of this, the Conservatives feel that the right thing to do both morally and democratically is to downplay it. One Conservative MP named Tom Lukiwski suggests that only a few voters in each riding were affected, as if that makes it hardly something to complain about. Another one pointed out that only a small percentage of people who received calls filed complaints, as if that somehow means the other mislead voters didn’t really mind. Worst of all, however, would be New Brunswick Conservative John Williamson who compared the calls to mere “errors” or accidents, and “in the grand scheme of things” the number made is far fewer than the total number of voters; therefore, why make such a big deal out of it?

Marc Mayrand has rightfully pointed out that this sort of behaviour should not be tolerated in a democracy. If even one voter is prevented from fulfilling their right as a citizen to cast a vote, a crime has taken place. If there is so much as the intention to subvert the democratic process in any way whether organized, or un-organized, a crime has taken place.

For a part that’s “tough on crime” the Conservatives seem pretty lenient towards this one.

A New Beard for Valentine’s Day

For couples, Valentine’s Day is a cheesy holiday where people hand each other tasteless chocolate hearts wrapped in red tin foil, and then dine at restaurants well above what they can afford before retiring back to the ranch for some candelight romance.

For singles, like myself, it’s something… different, though not necessarily in a depressing way like Christmas is for people who don’t really have family or friends on their continent. Being single on Valentine’s Day is actually nothing to complain about, as I’ve learned over the years of occasionally not having anyone to chaperon about (I think my batting average for this specific holiday is around .4). Actually, it’s quite great.

First off would be the freedom of not having to conform to some ridiculous standard or norm set down rather arbitrarily by our society, which I guess is what most holidays are. I’ve never really been the biggest fan of celebrating something just for the sake of doing so because everyone else is. Hoping on the generic holiday bandwagon with all the other sheeple doesn’t say or do too much about the human spirit or indepence or character or what have you. Yes, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to arbitrary celebreate the Christmas “holidays”, and I’ve been called a Grinch for it more than once (funny how a green-skinned Doctor Seuss Character has become superimposed with a Christian-Pagan holiday about nativity and the solstice). I suppose not wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day makes me a… Stoic? I’ve definitely been called worse.

Secondly, who actually knows anything about Saint Valentine (or rather, any of the saints named Valentine)? Did any of these ancient martyrs named Valentine have anything to do with cinnamon candy hearts? Probably not. Did any of them have little wings or shoot arrows into lover’s hearts? No, that would be Cupid, that old Greco-Roman troublemaker.

What it all boils down to is Valentine’s Day is just another mish-mash of a holiday that the Western world seems to enjoy doing (look at Christmas, St-Patrick’s Day, Halloween, etc). Considering how ridiculous the holiday is, I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I did something equally absurd to celebrate a day that has no meaning other than what we give it.

This year for Saint Valentine’s Day I decided it was high time that I trim myself a fancy new beard. Those who know me, know that I’ve been sporting a handsome chin strap goatee for quite some time now, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, as interpreted by yours, it had to go. Replacing it now is a moustache-chin-scruff combo not unlike the combo that Johnny Depp usually sports (and should have sported inĀ Don Juan)

I’ll admit, I had some doubts about embarking on a journey towards new-beard-island, but the end result is actually quite impressive. It’s not entirely faithful to the one that Johnny’s Hollywood stylists graft onto his face in most of his movies, but it’s close enough that in the battered remains of my facial hair I can at least say I’ve decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my own way. No one can really say that it goesn’t against the spirit of things because it’s not as if holidays have some sort of rule book to follow or a strict set of traditions that we all need to follow. I’m pretty sure we just make them up as we go along.

Why I Dread Telling People What I Study

I suppose it’s something that I’m just going to have to get used to…

I’ve been working on my Master’s Degree for almost three years now and whenever I tell people that I’m studying the history and philosophy of religion my first response is inevitably something along the lines of “oh, so does that mean you want to become a priest?”. After talking with more than a few of my colleagues around the department I discovered, to my great relief (or maybe it’s horror, actually) that I’m far from being the only one who’s been asked that question.

I suppose, in a way, it’s better than being immediately asked “what do you plan on doing with that degree?”, that question we all fear to hear around the holidays, when family members we haven’t seen in ages suddenly start wondering if we’re wasting our lives. That question is a little bit condescending, because it implies that we’re studying something of no discernible use. It’s even worse when I get into specifics, such as my main focus of research is examining an obscure Catholic saint in South India and how his shrine is largely the meeting place for a variety of cultural polarities. It usually kills the conversation.

If I were to tell people that I’m studying engineering, as vague as that word is, I’m pretty sure that I would get a good pat on the back, and kinds words of encouragement. I would be studying something practical, where the money is, and all that. When you tell people that you’re an engineer they immediately assume it means success, even if they have no idea what you do. Civil engineer, robotics expert, meh; it’s all the same and it’s all good. The second you throw in the words “religion”, “philosophy” and “history” (which my faculty happens to contain all three in it’s name) you get the look of troubled desperation.

I’m sure there are some people who can take all the groans and the moans in stride, and never tire of clarifying what it is that they actually do and why it’s important, useful and self-fulfilling, but I’m not one of them. After the tenth time of trying in vain to point out that the secular study of religion is not the same as going to seminary, I’ve mostly just given up. In fact, most of the time when people ask me what I’m studying, I’ll give them a different answer, just to see what happens. I told people that I’m studying philosopher, or culture, or Indian philosophy and culture. I’ve said “master’s degree” and left it at that, and I’ve even gone the path of rolling my eyes and saying that even I didn’t know what I was studying.

Those answers always produce an interesting variety of responses, and sometimes even yield more positive reponses than I was expecting. I’ve noticed that being vague or evasive somehow strangely makes it easier to get into the specifics of what I’m studying, and clear up any pre-conceived notions that people might have about the study of religion before I once again have to defend the fact that as an atheist, I’m just as qualified to study religion as anyone else, and no it doesn’t mean that I plan on converting.

Curiously, the one time I answered that I was studying Hinduism, it turned out to be a rather poor choice of words. The person who asked me what I was studying happened to me a self-proclaimed expert in Advaita-Vedanta, the Norther American understanding anyways, and fancied themselves the bees knees of all things Hind and Indian. It was actually a rather bizarre experience. I was asked when was the last time that I read Abhinavagupta, and after pointing out that I didn’t think he was part of the Advaita-Vedanta, I was nearly reprimanded for not really knowing what I was studying. I think that was when I noticed how good the salad bar looked, and pointed out that my immediate dharma involved breadsticks and I quickly made my escape.

Sometimes people are offended when I tell them what I study. Usually the offended parties involve people who adhere to a very specific set of values and or beliefs. Once when I was talking about ancient civilizations of the Indian subcontinent, and the possibility that some ruins might be as old as 6000 BCE, I was politely told that it was not the case because the world wasn’t even that old. At times like that you know the evening’s off to a poor start.

There was a time when I might have been more argumentative (combative, even) towards views like that, pointing out that things aren’t exactly the way a certain popular collection of religious texts (the Christian Bible) would have you believe, but I’m far too tired too care. People can think what they want, no matter how ridiculous their belief systems are. If you believe the world was created 5000 years ago because a shoddily edited and very suspicious tome says so, that’s fine, but please don’t knock on other people’s accepted truths. It’s just as likely that the universe was created by a giant flying spaghetti monster 60 years ago, and everyone who claims to be passed the age of retirement is in on the lie.

In all, I’ve been rather lucky to only have a few people accuse me of either being elitist when I tell them what I’m studying, what I think about things and my field of study is just as interesting as (and potentially part of) unraveling the mysteries of the universe. So I suppose I have something I should be thankful for.

Oh, and for the record, Abhinavagupta wasn’t part of that philosophical movement. He considered himself far to classy to bounce in those circles.