Posted by: J.V. | June 14, 2012

On Anti-Capitalism

In the past few weeks, I’ve read a few people who wrote that, although they see the injustices that are inherent to our capitalist system, they don’t feel they can identify as anti-capitalist. They buy thing and thus participate in the system by supporting various industries. I can understand why people would see self-identification as anti-capitalist and participation in this system as contradictory. However, since we are very much constrained to participate in the system as a matter of survival, except for a few individuals or groups who have the skills to produce their own food and other necessities and manage to live off the grid, I don’t think that this participation entails acceptance and support of the system.

I am an anti-capitalist. Yes, I buy things. I buy food, clothing, concert tickets, books and camping gear and I pay for travel expenses. That is the system that I’m in for the time being and if I don’t want my son to starve and go to school naked, and if I want to enjoy leisure (yes, leisure is a basic human need), I have to shell out and support some industry or another for the most part. That said, I try to minimise the impact. I buy second hand or from small, local or family run businesses when I can, for example. I also try to support companies that have proven to be ethical.

What being an anti-capitalist means to me is that I’m against a system that is inherently exploitative and oppressive. I’m against a system that profits a wealthy few and maintains their economic and political power. I’m against a system that is stacked against specific segments of the population. I’m against a system that thrives on and perpetuates colonialism, sexism, racism, agism, sizeism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and classism.

I’m willing to work for the dismantlement of such a system so that all people have equal access to resources, to physical, mental and emotional well-being, to community and to self-fulfillment and self-expression. During this struggle though, I will have to continue to buy things. I will continue to try to minimise the impact with the choices I make as a consumer though. I’m particularly interested in the growing barter movement…

I was once accused of being discriminatory by identifying as anti-capitalism by someone who self-identified as a capitalist. They identified as such because they loved to shop. When I asked them if they understood what a capitalist system entailed, they could not reply. They had no notion of how capitalism works. On top of that, they were not exactly a wealthy person – certainly not someone who profited from capitalism.

It’s gotten to this. People think that capitalism entails freedom. The freedom to choose between a million and one brands? The freedom to spend their entire paychecks on goods that they don’t really need? Who is really free in a capitalist society? From my viewpoint, the only freedom in a capitalist system is the freedom to exploit others for one’s own gain. When that freedom is under attack, the privileged few get up in arms with claims of entitlement and nonsense about pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. They conveniently forget, or obscure, how they have benefitted from a system that is stacked in their favour. They obscure how they have pulled themselves up by other people’s bootstraps, such as the bootstraps of the original caretakers of the land and the bootstraps of the people they continue to exploit for gain. Let us take our boots back and use them to collectively boost each other up so that we can all enjoy fresh and nutricious food, fresh air, clean water, health care and quality education,  decent homes, arts and entertainment, sports and games, community and empowerment.

Posted by: J.V. | May 23, 2012

Paiements rétroactifs pour payer sa juste part?

Depuis le début de la grève étudiante, je m’obstine de manière courante avec des gens qui sont favorables à la hausse des frais scolaires, imposée par le gouvernement libéral du Québec. Ces personnes sont d’avis que les étudiant-e-s devraient payer leur juste part. Mais il y a une chose qui me chicotte lè-dedans (plus d’une chose en fait, mais on va se limiter à une chose pour cet article): la hausse viendrait compenser un manque à gagner pour bien des années pendant lesquelles il y avait un gel des frais. Bien des gens avec lesquels je me suis obstiné ont complété leurs études pendant cette période de gel et n’ont donc pas, selon la logique qu’ils ont emprunté du gouvernement, payé leur juste part. Alors ils étiquettent les étudiant-e-s en grève de lâches et de chiâleux-ses et disent: “Ne vous attendez pas à ce que NOUS, les contribuables, payont vos études!” Mais en réalité, les étudiant-e-s seraient dans l’obligation, au cours des prochaines 5 ou 7 années, de payer ce qui aurait été payé par ces contribuables S’IL N’Y AVAIT PAS EU DE GEL. (Ces personnes oublient aussi que les étudiant-e-s courant-e-s seront les contribuables de demain – et dans bien des cas sont déjà contribuables – qui couvriront les pensions des contribuables d’aujourd’hui. Mais ça c’est pour un autre article.) Donc je vous lance la question: si vous avez bénéficié d’une éducation accessible grâce au gel des frais, seriez-vous disposé-e-s à contribuer retroactivement à la hausse courante? Ou seriez vous dans les rues si le gouvernement tentait de vous faire payer VOTRE juste part?

Posted by: J.V. | May 23, 2012

Retroactive payments to pay one’s fair share?

Throughout the last few months of the student strikes, I’ve argued with a lot of people who are in favour of the tuition hike that is being imposed by Quebec’s liberal government. They agree that students should pay their fair share. But here’s the thing: the hike would be making up for many, many years of tuition freeze. Many of the people I’ve argued with completed their university studies during this period of tuition freeze and therefore did not, according to the logic they borrowed from the government, pay their fair share. So they label striking students as lazy and whiney for “expecting current tax payers to cover their education” while, in reality, students over the next 5 or 7 years would be covering what would have been paid by current tax payers HAD THERE NOT BEEN A TUITION FREEZE. (Of course, they also conveniently forget that current students will be tomorrow’s tax payers – and in many cases, already are tax payers – who will be covering current tax payers’ pensions. But that is another blog post.) So let me ask you this: if you benefited from accessible education due to a tax freeze, would you be willing to retroactively contribute to the current hike? Or would be be up in arms and taking over the streets if the government wanted to make YOU pay your fair share?

Here is the first of a series of posts I’m writing about some anti-strike clichés, brought to you courtesy of mainstream “news” sources and the uncritical people who rely on them for pseudo-information. Here is some background on the Quebec student strike of 2012 and an awesome site that explains in simple terms why we need to fight the hike. Yes I’m biased. Deal with it.

Cliché #1: “You pay the lowest tuition in the country so shut up.”

My response: There is no reason to use the rest of Canada (and certainly not the United States) as a barometer for what we should be doing. As a society, we decided in the 1960s that accessible education was a priority. “Education was no longer considered to be a luxury, but rather a right, and the government wanted everyone to have the same opportunities to benefit from it. With this end in mind, the provincial government placed greater emphasis on free education and the building of new schools. To achieve these objectives, it took over control of the educational system and began secularizing it.” We took control of our educational system. We didn’t do that so that 4 decades later we could cave to the rest of Canada or the United States.

Instead of focusing on how “low” our tuition is here compared to other provinces, why not focus on how high it is there? Indeed, some Canadian students outside of Quebec have been inspired by Quebec students and are trying to get things on the move across the country.

Posted by: J.V. | January 1, 2011

Immigration and deportation in a colonial nation

The folks at No One is Illegal Toronto said in one sentence what I often struggle to explain to people who come up with bullshit statements about the rights of Euro-Canadians to decide how immigrants and refugees to Canada get treated:

A state that exists due to the dispossession and killing of Indigenous communities has no moral power to control who lives within borders it calls its own.

via Daniel Garcia Deported. We Continue. | no one is illegal – toronto.

For example, I get extremely frustrated whenever I hear comments from my fellow Euro-Canadians about how immigrants should learn and adapt to “our” ways. They conveniently forget that our ancestral colonisers completely ignored the “ways” of the original inhabitants of this continent, except when those ways helped them survive brutal winters of course. Once the Europeans decided to form governments here, they didn’t even consider that Native people were actual human beings.

And now, these same institutions (and the many people who support them) turn around and put up fences so that “undesirables” do not get in and mess with the sanctity of their home. What hypocracy!What a complete and utter lack of humanity.

There are some good things happening in Canada but lately, it seems the inhuman, racist and mysogynist things outnumber them. I am increasingly ashamed of Canada and I’m very, very worried about this drastic shift to the right. Are we becoming the new United States? Are we becoming a totalitarian state where a small set of dictators acts with complete disregard for the will of the people, or only with regard for the will of the fascist right-wingers?

As for Brenda and Daniel Garcia, I hope they find safety somewhere. I hope that they have friends and family members that they can go to for support. And I hope that Canada’s increasing fascist tendancies are crushed before they escalate to dire levels. But that won’t happen as long as so many people remain apathetic and complacent about these striking cases of injustice.

Posted by: J.V. | January 1, 2011

Jayaben Desai, 1933-2010

Definitely worth highlighting.

According to the original article linked to on Feministe, Jayaben Desai:

came to be known as a “lioness” for her role in leading the two-year long strike at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories, north London, in the 1970s to demand union recognition for its largely Asian and female workforce.


Posted by: J.V. | January 1, 2011

Fireworks in Chisasibi

I’ve never been a HUGE fireworks nut, except for when I was a kid. We have awesome fireworks events in Montreal – heck every summer, we have the international fireworks competition. Anyone can see them for free from one of our city’s bridges and if you have a little radio, you can listen to the music that accompanies each competing nation’s display. But I’ve gone maybe . . .twice?

This year, I had heard that there would be a display at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I figured I’d miss them since my son seems to have inherited my “meh” attitude towards them. But when I found out where they were and that I would be able to see them from my living room window, I was delighted! In Chisasibi, I find myself being more appreciative of things like fireworks, hockey, Christmas and even religion, all things I usually go “meh” towards in Montreal and other “homelike” areas. I don’t know what it is but all these things have their own little twists in Chisasibi. There’s just a different kind of spirit about things here. I found myself at the commercial centre a couple of times this week and, upon encounters with people that I knew, I shook their hands vigourously and said “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” and REALLY meaning it.

So in this period of time when, although the days are getting longer, the nights are long and natural light is less than abundant, a show of lights was very welcome to me. First, at midnight, I heard oodles of gunshots go off. I had been told about this too. A few minutes later, the fireworks began. I have to say, they were amazing! They sure know how to out on a rocking fireworks display here! I stood at my open window wearing a couple of sweaters and smoking a celebratory cigarette (I’m an occasional smoker and only when my son is not there to see me. He was sleeping and, in spite of my invitations, did not want to get up to see the fireworks.) I contemplated the coming year, and more specifically the coming 7 months that I have left in Chisasibi. And I couldn’t help smiling at the contentment of just being here.

Posted by: J.V. | December 30, 2010

WordPress 2011 Weekly Post Challenge

I’m on of those bloggers who go through phases of fairly intense blogging and then I’m dead to blogosphere for weeks or months on end. There are lots of things I want to say about about life in Chisasibi, about anthropology and its relationship to colonisation, racism and about social and political issues in general but I often lack motivation to sit and get my ideas down on the screen. Well, there’s nothing like a challenge to motivate me so I decided I’d take WordPress up on their Weekly Post Challenge for 2011. They have a Daily Post Challenge as well but since life is pretty hectic between research, single parenting and occasional substitution work at the local high school, I think a weekly pledge is enough. So I’ll try really hard to post at least once every week in 2011. I’m sure I’ll have to take a haitus once or twice for travel but I’ll try to stick to it for as much of the year as I physically can.

For any interested WordPressers, or wanna-be WordPressers, there is more info on how to participate here.

Posted by: J.V. | December 30, 2010

Sam Harris: A New Year’s Resolution for the Rich

I have mixed feelings about Sam Harris’ text on Huffington Post. On one hand, it’s good that there is at least one wealthy person out there who is able to question the disgusting social inequalities that exist in North American society. On the other hand, he overrelies on financial contributions as a way to fix these inequalities.

Read More…

Posted by: J.V. | December 27, 2010

Sounds SO familiar!

Anyone familiar with the dealings of the people of Eeyou Istchee (James Bay Cree) with Hydro-Québec will see some similarities with this story:

Panama: Video On Ngobe-Bugle People And Defending The Rio Chorcha From Dams


* Visit the Ngobe village on the River Chorcha in the Ngobe-Bugle of Panama where a company intends to build a dam.

* Commentaries of community leaders and people living on the grounds that the company wants to flood.


The hydroelectric dam on the River Chorcha is NOT to electrify communities of the region (who live with poverty level to 97%), but to take the city and sell electricity to other countries through the interconnection that is part of “Plan Puebla Panama.”


Ngobe rights have been violated in the process of the Chorcha project approval. We call for solidarity and prayers of everyone at this difficult time. May the God of life always guide your path to peace and justice.

via Panama: Video On Ngobe-Bugle People And Defending The Rio Chorcha From Dams – Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources.

If you’re lucky enough to have a decent internet connection, you can view a video by visiting the above link. I haven’t seen it as my internet connection is too slow and spotty to allow me to view videos. So if anyone watches it, please let me know your thoughts.


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