Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

Idyll Never Again

January 29, 2013

I sympathize with Idle No More, but I don’t think the goals realistic or desirable

The aboriginal peoples of Canada have gathered in common cause. Idle No More; a movement with the explicitly stated goals of environmental protection and native sovereignty. From squalid reserves to broken treaties, the indigenous people of Canada are in desperate plight and can demonstrate legitimate grievance. However, if there is a fundamental flaw in the institution that uniquely addresses Canadian aboriginals, it might be that it exists at all. Reserve life is a failed experiment, and would be in no way worthy of rehabilitation if we weren’t mired in it for the foreseeable future.

When Europeans, armed with steel and pox, came to Canada 400 years ago, they came into conflict with a people very familiar; warlike, greedy, racist, proud, prone to convenience, and not very bright. In other words, the Europeans and Canadian Aboriginals were human beings alike, and what separated them was technology. Speaking as someone who grew up in Canada, exposed to endless vignettes and culturally sensitive middle school textbooks, I was influenced by all manner of stories about “using all parts of the buffalo” and the profound spiritual connection of Native Canadians to the land. Such stories are pure invention, as buffalo jumps and the setting of massive fires to drive game strongly attest. The Native Canadians of yesteryear were a defeated people, outclassed by a European tribe with motives akin to their own.

As Canadians, we lean toward the mosaic side of the cultural mosaic versus melting pot debate, and in the case of the aboriginal people of Canada, that attitude has not served us very well. Allow me a brief aside and an analogy to illustrate my point. In a episode of Law & Order, Lt. Van Buren (a black woman, and the person in charge of her precinct) is told by a racist perp to “Go back to Nairobi, or wherever it is you came from” to which Van Buren replied “I’m from Brooklyn.” Van Buren wins the argument by the simple fact that she is an American, no matter her African heritage.

Now picture a post antebellum America, where former slaves are herded into reserves, guaranteed certain rights, and encouraged to preserve their African culture in isolation. We’d have another case of “our culture” and “their culture.” Instead, despite all the problems still facing the American black person, American culture is part black, and that subculture grows organically and influences every part of American life – from the presidency to the listening habits of suburban white kids. In Canada, in the case of our aboriginals, we have encouraged “their” identity…

It might seem easy for a white male living in a country dominated by white males to dismiss the value of another culture. To insist that “they” integrate instead of preserving their heritage. And yes, it is easy. However, cultures since the dawn of humanity of come and gone, and perhaps more importantly, mutate and change. Artificially preserving cultures despite their lack of material success results in stagnation, and as has been proven by the grotesque failure of reserve life, promotes little more than a perpetual reminder of what once was, and can never be again.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[@]gmail.com

Shout it from the Highest Mountain

March 7, 2011

There is little less interesting, more boring, more inappropriate, less accurate, and as utterly and completely and universally irrelevant, as sharing your estimation of yourself.

Last night someone I barely know suggested, in all seriousness, that their IQ was very high. Amongst the most crass statements I have ever heard, and invariably uttered by those whose IQ is nothing to be bragged about, this socially challenged peasant proved no exception. The principle crime committed was not one of arrogance or inaccuracy, but of reducing the assembled to staring at the floor.

“What do you expect me to say to that?” he thought, assuming the rest of the company was sharing a similar train. “I had absolutely no indication of your superior intelligence until just now. Thanks for setting me straight.” The only other option, aside from an unlooked for miracle segue rescuing the conversation from the elephant, “bullshit.”

I can sing, or, I am pretty, or, I can write, or I am charismatic, or, I can act, or I am smart, or, I am good at sports, all fall under that umbrella of statements noone has any business making. There is little doubt that a heaping dose of self confidence is likely a necessary component of success in all but the blandest of endeavors, but whether anyone is any good at anything, is up to either a) everyone else, in the case of the arts, or b) the scoreboard, in the case of sport or business. Proclaiming competence get’s you nowhere outside of a job interview.

You’ll know, and they’ll know, and the quiet confidence so universally attractive, regardless of gender and romantic or not, follows. Loud confidence isn’t confidence at all, it’s arrogance. Universally condemned for suffering from the most unforgivable quality: being boring.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Bent Double, Like Old Beggars Under Sacks

February 23, 2011

There is little less masculine than a profession of love for poetry.

No one can claim ownership of the words masculine or feminine. Some things in this world are rough, tough, and angular (or handsome, ruthless, and stupid, in Dorothy Parker’s idealized conception) and some are soft, bending, and curvy. Whether those extra broad generalizations can be safely applied to men and women is outside the domain of this discussion. Suffice it to say: dogs are boys, cats are girls, PCs are boys, Macs are girls, and for whatever reason you care to cite, we all seem to agree.

Poetry is graceful, pretty, emotional, and flowery. The flow of the words; the sound they make when repeated back to oneself is paramount, and while it is inescapable that poems have meaning, for words mean things, deciphering the hidden meaning, if  there is any to be found, is missing the point at best. However, a man’s love of things graceful or pretty or emotional or flowery is supposedly limited to what he can fuck, and any further pronouncement of joy at the sight or sound or experience of delicate waff, makes him a poof, a nancy boy, or a fag.

Nothing new in the above. We are all too aware of the reputation risked by any boy brave enough to carry Emily Dickson without camouflage, but the cliche to my limited experience is abnormally felt, and I wonder at the cause. Men like music and lyrics, can appreciate a turn of phrase wittily and adroitly presented,  read books, and seem to run the gamut of stuttering neanderthal to elegant wordsmith with the same frequency as women. Social pressures, no doubt contributing, cannot possibly explain everything. There must be something specific to the art form or its reputation making the males in my social group bored at the mere prospect.

Boring. There it is. That word. There is nothing worse than boring (perhaps homicidal or smelly if we are talking about people). I was manifestly uncomfortable and terribly annoyed at being forced to read E.E. cummings or Robert Frost in high school. And rightly so. The beauty of language is not a subject worth discussing with partially developed minds, and Shakespeare elicited a similar response. No, what the dreary high school matron (my English teachers were invariably dull and female) was left with was a search for meaning. An accounting of facts. An exercise in: “Well, why the fuck didn’t he just come out and say it then?” Sure, some of the students were ready for poetry, and genuinely enjoyed it. They tended to be girls. No, not tended, were girls.

But I loved books, and was perfectly happy to engage fully with a difficult metaphor and not feel in the least put out for having to decipher it. Be that as it may, the contradiction in finding poetry irritating for failing to be direct, and not holding literature to the same standard, has only recently struck me.

Nowadays, I can approach a poem without any precedent angst, but it required a genuine effort to displace the notion that deciphering meaning was the task. I was never scared of being called a fag.

Try this. I dare you not to get a little moist.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

The Greys

December 2, 2010

Throwing her arms in the air in bemused exasperation she exclaimed “I don’t get sports.”

The other night between bouts of Quizzard, the lone female in the room availed herself of the opportunity to inquire as to the male obsession with sports. I have to admit that I might not be the best person to ask, as my sporting obsessions tend toward individual contests; whiling away entire afternoons in front of the television watching golf, tennis, or snooker will no doubt maintain as habits for years to come.

That said, I have enjoyed the occasional baseball game, and even football can prove diverting. Hockey or basketball not so much, though World Cup soccer has the capacity to engage my full attention for a game or two (especially if the UK are taking on the Krauts). The Olympics are a big snooze. Running? Throw the thing? That manages to engage the attention of adults? I have to admit I have for some time wanted to be an Eastern European spy who also happens to be a Biathlon (that’s gun-skiing to you) medalist, but that’s a story for another day.

The appeal of sports is rooted in four major concepts: vicarious competition, tribalism, and appreciation for athletic aesthetics are the obvious first three. The fourth, less obvious but entirely indispensable, is the narrative. Each and every game of anything is also a story, and not only is the story about the events that transpire over  the next couple of hours, but it is also a tale in context. What and who do these teams represent? Are the big, bad, and rich New York Yankees bashing a small market minnow into submission? Will the minnow prove to be a David in the face of Goliath? Or are The Yankees taking on their arch nemesis, The Boston Red Sox – the darlings of perennial vigils held in hope of an eventual victory in the face of The Evil Empire (until recently anyway, they finally won).

Sports are dramatic. Yes, it is cheap drama, and the tension no more sophisticated than that built by a nauseating television program about hot doctors screwing each other… but no less either. Males like sports because they are allegories for murder and conflict – the stuff of many a good story.

So, I raise my arms and ask: How can anyone who claims to be a grown up willingly sit through an episode of Grey’s Anatomy?


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