Category Archives: Rant

Nonjudgmental Judging Has No Place on The TTC

Friday night, en route to a concert I was reviewing for my music blog, I noticed an ad on the TTC subway system that inspired disgust and anger.  The ad promoted JFJ Hope Centre, which also displayed support from the omnipresent Bus Stop Bible Studies.  What is the JFJ Hope Centre?  Let’s ask them:

Formerly known as Jewels For Jesus Mission and Jewels For Jesus Adoption Agency, our organization has been compassionately caring for families and children in the province of Ontario since 1948.

JFJ Hope Centre offers support and education related to unplanned pregnancies and parenting struggles in a caring Christian environment.

This in and of itself is not the problem with the ad.  I fully support the freedom for organizations such as this to advertise on the TTC, with one caveat:  the ad must not make a non-Christian feel judged or “lesser than” in any way.  The ad currently on the system features a sad, young couple and the above information.  Had they stopped there, I would be content.  But then, they had to go that further step:

“Adoption is the loving choice.”

Now I’m pissed.  I look at an ad that touts a “nonjudgmental environment” and point out how sooty-black the pot is from the perspective of this kettle.

Adoption is a choice, and a valid one.  Many unplanned pregnancies end in this choice, and I support it.  A good friend of mine has adopted three children and gives them an incredible amount of love and joy.  She is truly a Supermom and in the case of those families, adoption ended in a very positive way.

However, giving a child up at birth does not always end happily.  Children may enter foster homes that are unfortunately abusive, or group homes with similar misery.  Birth parents may spend their lives regretting their choice.  Young teen girls may be forced by parents via bullying into a choice that is anything but loving.

Abortion is also a valid choice.  For some, it is psychologically impossible to carry a child to term and give it away.  Tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy or childbirth, makes the mere confirmation of a pregnancy a traumatic experience.  Survivors of sexual violence may be further traumatized by carrying an assailant’s child to term.  What is loving for the parents here?

There are parents who choose to abort because of severe birth defects that will make life painful, difficult and/or extremely short for the child if carried to term, or perhaps the child may be stillborn.  It is agonizing, but they may choose out of love to abort.  That may not be the Christian viewpoint of what to do in these cases, but that doesn’t negate the love behind a gesture.

Herein lays my point:  just because a choice is not the preferred resolution that a Christian organization would espouse does not preclude other options from being selected out of love.  To state that adoption unequivocally is the loving choice is judgmental, insulting and potentially painful for a TTC rider that has aborted in the past.  As someone with friends who have aborted with very loving reasons – who live with the pain of that sacrifice – I am extremely upset that the TTC cleared this ad.

The most frustrating part is that the ad would be acceptable with a single word change.  Had the ad stated, “Adoption is a loving choice”, I wouldn’t object.  It is one of the choices, and it can be made out of love.  In a country where abortion is legal and has been for many years, the TTC should know better.

I am more open than some out there.  I am okay with religious and atheist ads alike.  People are allowed to celebrate their diversity of opinions, life choices, histories, religion, race, culture, etc.  That’s what makes Canada great.  But do not make me feel like I am not loving, kind, or a decent person because I would make a different choice than you would.  As a childfree woman by choice, I would abort if all of my many safeguards against pregnancy failed.  I would do so out of love, for I know I am not a suitable mother and carry many heritable ailments I would never wish on an innocent child.  If that’s not loving, I don’t know what is.

Note: comments turned off due to hateful pro-life spam (now that’s ironic).

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Collected Thoughts: Medicinal Marijuana and Decriminalization

Were I availed of more free time and energy, I might craft a coherent thought piece on this subject, one that I feel rather strongly about.  However, given lack of the above, here are excerpts from a discussion on Facebook on the issue, which encapsulate the bulk of my beliefs.

Note:  There is an America-centric slant to these comments, despite my being Canadian; the discussion centred on American laws and thus, I responded accordingly.  Don’t even get me started on Harper’s “ZOMG! Growing pot plants deserves more mandatory jail time than child rape!” omnibus crap…

Part One:

Who are you to judge what these so-called “regular people” are doing with a substance on par with alcohol? By your logic, alcohol should be abolished, because people consume it to enjoy a concert or movie or night out, or celebrate events. Further, psychological self-care includes leisure time – which may, horror!, include smoking pot on days off for fun. Whether intentionally taken for a medicinal cause or not, it does reduce anxiety, does enhance appreciation of stimulus and so on – unintentional medicinal effects.

Further, pleasurable enjoyment of marijuana and its pervasiveness – and the support of those individuals – is why the medicinal marijuana movement has had enough clout to make ANY leeway, why anyone realized its uses at all. Do you really think, if a so-called pothead hadn’t suggested pot to cancer patient family or friends, or those with anxiety, etc etc. that we would have seen studies that benefited the medicinal cause?

Last, how do YOU know the exact psychological reasons why a “pothead enjoying a movie” appreciates marijuana? I often smoke for, from outside appearances, recreational purposes. You can hear mention of this and throw shame at me for “ruining” a movement that came long after – one I support. I support it because I have gastro issues, anxiety, mood disorder and chronic pain. I choose marijuana for my recreation because it slows the racing of my bipolar brain, reduces anxiety, eases my constant pain in my joints and thus, allows me to mentally be happy and recharge. It is both recreation and medicine at once, but all you see is my atypical cheery mood and sense of ease while watching Pink Floyd DVDs.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds power into a movement you purportedly support, and don’t make assumptions about people whose lives you don’t live. I could write an essay on West Indian and Jamaican racial oppression and systemic issues that likely feed the connection between Marley and weed, but I shouldn’t have to connect the dots.

Part Two:

Marijuana is not often the drug of choice for a substance abuser, but people do indeed abuse it. People also abuse Oxycontin, or Percocet, drugs that someone needs to be able to get out of bed, drugs I have needed for injuries before to function. You can’t shun or slander everyone who uses a substance for non-medical reasons because of an experience that is personal and not objective.

Why do you care if I want to have three drinks at a concert? How is my choice affecting you? How is my choice to smoke a joint before a concert your business, or affecting your life? As a caveat, I hate people who are obnoxious substance users who DO impact others’ experiences; I’ve told off belligerent drunks at concerts before because they are screaming in my ear or falling over on me. I’ve also told off sober people infringing on me in the same way. That’s moot and a whole other area. But if I am sitting in my seat at a concert, enjoying the music, and happen to be high, why do you care? How is it affecting you?

While you may see the medicinal marijuana issue as “more important” than general decriminalization, you are failing to acknowledge that it came second to those who cannot fathom how a substance less dangerous than/no worse than alcohol or tobacco is a criminal offense, an evil substance, fighting to have it legalized. The reason pot smokers are so eager to support the medicinal movement is because it is one more reason in their argument for decriminalization. Tobacco helps no one. Alcohol helps no one. Marijuana does help people, and also happens to be recreational. The fact of the matter is, celebrities or not, the moral majority do not give a shit about suffering people. They do not give a shit about medical and scientific data that shows there’s no good reason to prohibit marijuana. The more people in the public who fuss, kick and fight to their government, the likelier it is they’ll throw their hands up and quietly give in. Medical marijuana is a stepping stone in a movement that already was, and members of that older movement were already espousing the medical benefits.

Governments are lobbied by churches and big business, especially pharmaceuticals. They have big, financial reasons not to decriminalize, not to approve medicinal marijuana. Who will buy all the pretty painkillers? How will doctors make money off narcotics and treating addiction to them? How will the government justify taxes and thousands of prison jobs if they’re not locking up African Americans and lower class Caucasians and Latinos for dealing a few dime bags? Think of all the social programs they can’t excuse themselves from funding if they stop spending money charging, prosecuting and imprisoning people for pot. Think of all the cop corruption cases they can’t throw out anymore for waiting too long for trial to start when the dockets are cut in half after pot is decriminalized. Think of the nasty business of the DEA having to focus on more international drug issues and treading on toes when they can’t keep busy chasing twenty-somethings from impoverished neighbourhoods for growing a few hundred plants.

Systemic oppression and corruption are the big picture, and that’s something everyone – from to the casual potheads – can get on side with.

THAT is why shitting all over users is really offensive. As for those in your life who used it as a crutch? Ask yourself what was going on in their lives that they felt they needed to self-medicate. Ask what was lying beneath the abuse. It’s an illness. Just like gastroparesis.

Think larger. Stop being so narrow-minded, please. That sort of division is exactly what the government wants, and it sets back the cause you care about.

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Censorship: An Open Letter To YouTube

Dear YouTube,

There are many things about you lately that I am unhappy about – the forced Google account login, for example, that boots me from my main Gmail account, since my secondary one is connected to my YouTube profile; the new layout continues to make basic activities harder (why can’t I X out videos I’m not interested in or see my subscription updates by channel!?); and the general manipulation of your content by greedy corporations is also annoying.  But today, I have a bigger problem,

You are blatantly targeting and discriminating against a single YouTube channel, FLuffeeTalks.

In a video uploaded this week, FLuffeeTalks (hereafter shortened to Fluffee) advised his fans that the reason he’d stopped uploading videos to the channel is that he is under personal attack by YouTube.  All of his honours have been inexplicably stripped (including his #5 Most Subscribed – Canada, which means a lot to him), with the explanation being that the channel is “too inappropriate” to have honours.

Anyone who regularly watches the big content producers on YouTube and knows Fluffee’s channel is rolling their eyes out of their head right now with me.  Too inappropriate?  Are you serious?  What precisely is too inappropriate about Fluffee’s channel that makes him unique from other honoured YouTubers? I feel as a user of YouTube, whose clicks earn the site revenue and in effect, makes me a paying customer, you owe us all an explanation.

For those who haven’t watched FLuffeeTalks, the premise is simple:  Fluffee takes a current news story, and then chats about it for a few minutes.  Being a comedian, his approach is one of dark humour.  The overall message is always a positive one (ie, killing is bad; pedophiles are evil; parents should watch their children).  I personally think FLuffee is one of the best comics out there, and that he and Joe Rogan should go on tour, but I digress.

Here’s an example of a FLuffeeTalks video:

So he swears – big deal!  He’s hardly the only YouTuber to do that.  Plenty of music artists put up uncensored versions of songs.  ItsKingsleyBitch, another of my favourite YouTubers (can he also be on this Rogan/Fluffee tour?) curses all the damn time and has honours – hell, he lists his Occupation as Professional Cunt.  Case in point:

So YouTube, it can’t be FLuffee’s language that’s the problem; a ton of the big YouTubers cuss all the time, and no one cares.

Then, I thought, “They have a problem with Fluffee talking about smoking marijuana.”  Now, plenty of YouTubers make comments about drug use, etc. for comedic effect, so if this is the case, it’s total BS. RayWilliamJohnson – who, for reasons I don’t understand, is HUGE on YouTube – talks about drugs and hey, even fake-smokes a bong in this video, but he still has honours.

So, it’s not the swearing, and it’s not the drug talk…  Is it the content?  How can it be?  Again, only FLuffee is being singled out.  No inappropriate images are shown.  His joke video titles are no worse than sxephil’s titles (now HE deserves to be on top, not RWJ, but again, I digress).  Also, like good ol’ PhillyD, FLuffeeTalks is a news-based show – wherein the YouTuber chats about the news that stuck out in a way that can be humorous.  If anything, between the lines, Fluffee is promoting decent behaviour – sure, he makes harsh jokes along the way, but in discussing pedophiles, his take-away message is, “Watch your children and protect them!”  How is that bad?

Contrast that with the endless date rape jokes Ray William Johnson makes in almost every goddamn show – the reason why I got fed up and unsubbed from him.  Hear that, YouTube?  As a date rape survivor, THAT is offensive and shouldn’t be on the honours page.  THAT bothers me.

TheYoungTurks also talk news, sometimes in a dark humour way.  So, with sxephil, that’s at least two larger channels putting out similar content to FLuffeeTalks, and their honours are intact.

YouTube, you’re busted.  You obviously have an agenda here, and are targeting people for unknown reasons you’re masking as “inappropriate content”.  YouTube, you have some serious explaining to do.  Rules must be uniformly applied, or they are not rules – just personal biases. Censorship sucks, YouTube, and will not be regarded lightly.

Waiting for an explanation,

Amber

(I have also complained over at YT itself; join the thread here.)

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Humanity Rant: Why Coddling Children Results In Annoying Adults

Hold on tight, kids; here comes the rant machine!

Let me set the scene for you with the history:  I’m in a social work program.  Social workers, as part of their day-to-day, deal with troubled, upset, abrasive, angry and sad people.  It happens.  Clients do not always exhibit fluffy bunny kindness when telling you that the program you’ve suggested for them conflicts (as you should know) with their job, and thus, they can’t attend; sometimes, they just call you a stupid fucking bitch who doesn’t know her damn job.  Clients can be wonderful, but I digress.  The point is this:  we are entering a profession where we can and will screw up, and people may or may not be nice in pointing it out.

One of our courses is Group Facilitation – in layperson terms, it’s a class to teach us to work in pairs and present information/teach people things.  Our major assignment is, you guessed it, a 45-minute facilitation.  Instructor tells us, “This is where you can fall on your face and learn, so you do wonderfully out in the field.”  We all stare wide-eyed, wondering when she’s going to tell us how to do this foreign thing.  It’s far more complex than it sounds, because social work programs want a very specific technique and style.

As part of our presentations, we’re grading our peers.  These grades do not impact our actual grades; their sole function, really, is for us to reflect on that feedback in a big ol’ “how do I feel about this?” paper.

First warning sign: the first day, when people realized that the groups would get to see what they wrote about their presentations, people began whining about wanting to leave off their names, wanting to not see them, insisting people would retaliate on each other for harsh marks.  “This isn’t high school,” Instructor says.  I shake my head:  our class really is like high school.  We are a mix of fast-track students and two-year standard program students, and the ages range from 20-40+ within the same 27-pupil section.  It makes for divisions simply due to differing generations, maturity levels and lived experiences.  It’s also almost entirely female.  Mean Girls.  Enough said.

As someone who has worked as a teacher, and in keeping with the spirit of “fall down here and learn”, I am very honest on my forms.  These are not anonymous; everything I say, I would say to someone’s face. When I approach them, in the whopping two minutes I have at the end and in the tiny space for each category of ranking, I jot down areas where I feel the facilitators could have improved, anything I thought that misfired, any biases/isms they’ve inadvertently demonstrated, etc.  I do this because when we all enter the field, we will not be dealing with our fluffy loving classmates; we will be dealing with people from all walks of life, with all different personalities.  What I may find “kinda rude” may get you screamed at in the field, or send someone running out in tears.  Not good, right?

Apparently, I am stuck in a class full of Special Snowflakes, coddled throughout their lives and totally positive! and everybody is amazing! and deserves an A+ for effort!

Parents of the world (and teachers) please listen:  there is a difference between a strengths-based, encouraging approach and flat-out lying to a child about how perfect she is, setting her up to utterly melt down when she meets the real world and finds out she’s not perfect.  She will assume everyone is a big ol’ meanie out to get her, and be oblivious to the fact that no, maybe she is just flawed – and that’s okay and normal!

Not everyone is good at oral presentations; I tend to talk way too fact because of social phobia, and also just struggle to find a good flow a lot of the time.  In grade five, I had to do a speech for school.  My topic?  Hating speeches.  I burst through what was a proper five-minute speech at home, finished in three-minutes, and stumbled over every other sentence anyway.

My teacher did not tell me I was amazing.  She gave me a B- (and for a perfectionist getting an A+ in that class, this was devastating and hysterics-inducing) and told me I needed a stronger development of my ideas and also, I should slow the hell down so people can understand me.

My parents never coddled me.  They told me to dream big, to go after any career I wanted, and to always do my best, but they also knew I sucked at Art, Gym and Geography and told me that oh well, I just sucked at colouring maps and playing basketball.

I was furious with myself for not getting an A.  Did I melt down and call the teacher an unfair meanie, and send my mother after her?  No.  I tried to improve, so I’d never get a dreaded B- again.  I knew the speedy talking was terror, so I worked on the other stuff:  I made sure to learn how to properly present what would later be identified as a thesis.  I got better at presentations.  I still got told to slow down, but not as much.

In this class, I gave my absolute strongest performance to date.  Between 24 classmates and the teacher, no one told me I spoke too fast; I presented my ideas without tripping on my tongue; and I even jumped in to help manage a potentially contentious debate.  Our group worked really hard, consulting often with teachers, to ensure we covered all of the marking scheme requirements, watched our biases, etc.  We got 91% from a teacher doling out 77% and calling that “a really good mark”.  It was the best mark by a huge margin to that point.

We still had criticisms.  I agreed with them:  our topic was very complex, so our slides had too much text on them due to the time limit.  We should have found more time for discussion-based learning.  Live and learn.  I was pointed out for speaking less than another group member, but the class was unaware of my social phobia and how I’d done more of the prep work as a compensation to my group.  I got a nasty comment that was pure retaliation after marking four other groups, and brushed it off.  I’m a grown woman.  I cannot and will never please everyone, no matter what I do.  That’s life.

My classmates fall into two groups:  one side, mainly the older students, acts the same way.  The rest – our Snowflakes – are furious with me for daring to say bad things, won’t speak to me anymore, and one even went to our instructor and complained for ten solid minutes today about me.  How do I know this?  She did it where anyone – including me, walking into the same department office – could hear herI was so embarrassed for her that I left the whole department and gave her the privacy to complain. One of her complaints was that she didn’t mind criticism “offered nicely“.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve seen, and what I’ve said:

  1. One group consisted of two white females and a Chinese female, who is a recent newcomer.  Her English is imperfect, but very understandable if you care to pay attention.  After she delivered the content on a slide in their presentation, one of the white girls repeated everything she said over again, as if we couldn’t understand the Chinese co-facilitator.  My comment:  “X repeated everything Y said right after she said it and it came off really rude and disrespectful.  I understood Y just fine!”
  2. One group ran an exercise that involved walking around the room and having other people sign off on squares of a Bingo card if a statement was true.  The goal is to get a line – a Bingo.  This went so quickly it became getting a full card.  I am invisibly physically disabled and suffer chronic joint pain and to make things more fun, I’d sprained my ankle three days prior.  I chose not to walk around but encouraged people to come to me to have their cards signed.  Not only did the facilitator standing beside me never ask me why I wasn’t moving around (basic group maintenance), she berated me and told me, “We’re doing a full card now!”   Right after stressing the importance of being mindful of disability etc.  My comments:   “A facilitator stood beside me and never once questioned why I wasn’t participating. She instead made me feel bad for not getting up. I sprained my ankle; it hurt to move.  No one checked if anyone was invisibly disabled.”
  3. One group was setting the room up into a semicircle for their presentation.  Our group did this the week before, and managed to do it with space for people to get around the room still, and had enough spots for all.  This group didn’t plan, didn’t count spots, and had to suddenly create four more spots.  One member came to where I and another student were sitting and rammed our tables back without letting us get up, pinned us against the back wall pretty much.  When we suggested leaving a small gap so people could get through the circle and cross to the other side of the room, this member said she “didn’t fucking care” and “my fat ass can get through”.  After all this, one student still never had a spot in the circle and sat behind it.  My comments:  “Q shoved the tables around and told us she “didn’t fucking care” when pinning us to the wall, and ignored our suggestion to leave a gap for crossing the room.  Z never got a spot in the circle.  Poor planning and rude.”

I firmly own the fact I am blunt and direct and can try and temper that, but where above did I say anything untrue or unnecessarily cruel?  Because apparently, I am abrasive and rude, and “out to cut everyone down instead of supporting them” and “selfish”.  I had a classmate say that.  Okay, people aren’t talking to me:  how was this a selfish move?  My grading doesn’t affect real marks.  If it did, I would be super generous with numbers and just comment!  Since it matters not, I will give you 7/10 if you’re rude to people for group maintenance, or deduct points for diversity awareness.  Sorry.  You are not all A presenters.  I did see some A presenters and groups; I also saw B- groups, too.  To tell the B- students that everything they did was 10/10 and wonderful negates those who really were amazing and all the efforts and talent they brought to the table.

In the real world, if girl 3 above was running a group session on employment searches and cussed a client, she might get slapped, or disciplined by a superior.  Yet, she wants me to lie and tell her she was perfect?  Why?  Isn’t it better you check your attitude now, with classmates who understand that you’re still learning the ropes, than during your field placement next term?

Funnily, the one male student who was NOT in my own group came up to me after his presentation and asked how I did, specifically wanting to know what I thought of him.  I laughed, told him I didn’t get the big deal about me, but said that his group’s was the best I’d seen, that he was the strongest facilitator in their four people, and he should be happy.  I discussed my approach and reasoning when I marked and he smiled and got what I was saying.  His group, by the way, was group 3 above, so he did get negative feedback as a unit, but he’s still smiling and relaxed.

I tell ya:  Mean Girls.

I’m from a different generation than most of these students, and man, the Snowflakes are grating!  The real world will not cushion and couch criticism.  If I’d had more time and more space to write, I could have written a paragraph to couch my negative comments, but that was not what I was working with.  Either way, grow up.  Criticism happens.  Roll with it, reject or accept it, and get over it already!

Because complaining to a teacher like a child whining to Mommy that “she was MEAN to me!” in college is just pathetic, and says far more about you than me.

I fear for some of these people’s clients.

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