A Letter to my 29th Year

It’s my birthday. I’m 29 today. I have a strange reaction to that number, 29. Around classmates who are 22, 23, 24, I joke about being old, and I know I’m not, but I also know I’m not really young anymore.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years wondering when I will become a grownup. When will I stop feeling like I have no goddamn clue how to get through the basics of life? When will everything stop feeling like such a challenge? When will I get to be like everyone else who has it all together?

Never. And at the same time, right now.

I’m thankful for my 29th year. I’ve spent more time alone this year than ever before, or at least, less time relying on particular individuals to support me, to know me, to define me. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to appreciate silence, learning to appreciate what is me in that silence, finding acceptance.

I could spend some more time regretting that it took me this long to decide it was time to define myself, or really to stop working to define and just discover. I could beat myself up for the bourgeois privilege that is the quarter-life crisis and mock myself for maybe, hopefully, finally getting past it. Or I could just continue to be grateful.

I still don’t do my dishes, but 29 is too old to pretend that will change, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful I can stop pretending this is just a matter of growing up and pulling myself together, that when I’m older and more mature I will care about such things and magically find the ability and energy to do them all. Energy is not the problem. Maturity is not the problem. I don’t wear matching socks, either. I’ve kind of started to feel sympathetic for people who struggle with that, but I won’t admit that often.

I’m doing my second Master’s degree, when, if the past five years had gone according to plan, I’d be finishing my PhD by now. Before this year, I was pretty angry about the plan. Sometimes about the failure of the plan, sometimes about the existence of the plan itself. 29 is too old not to just come to terms with the plan being what it is.

My divorce became final this year. It should go without saying that divorce wasn’t in the plan. But with the legalities final, the slate is clean and I’m starting over, again. Maybe it’s just become clear this year that all I’m ever doing is starting over, and I’ve come to appreciate that.

There’s a fine line between introspection and ego-stroking, and I’ve often crossed far over onto the wrong side of it. I was admitting to friends earlier that while I want to pretend I don’t like presents and birthday wishes and a few moments as the centre of attention, false modesty and humility are two entirely different concepts.

I’ve been learning to drive during my 29th year.

I’ve realized that I can leave town and spend a few days by myself without starting to feel stir-crazy, lonely or bored with my own company.

My lack of sleep is because I have too much I want to do, not because of fear, anxiety and unspoken dread. Having too much I want to do is mainly a joy, not a burden and not because I’m running away from what happens in silence.

Much as I’ve spent a lot of time alone, I’ve had love, community, family and friendship come to me from unexpected places exactly when they were needed.

It’s been a very good year, my 29th. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but I’m mostly grateful for those, too – I get bored quickly, and I don’t like being stuck, stagnant, immobile. I’ve had some anxieties and stresses in the past few months, as school and work and schedules and pressures build up and get to me, but here and now, there’s peace. I can start with that, again. If you’ll all forgive my self-indulgence. 😉

What Happened in Montreal

What happened in Montreal in 1989 was an act of hate, resentment and fear. It was an act of entitlement. It was the act of a man who felt that he deserved something, that he was entitled by birthright to a privileged education, with all of the socioeconomic benefits that this would entail. It was the act of a man who believed that it was others who were taking this entitlement from him, that it was women and feminists who were blocking his access to what was rightfully, morally, unequivocally his.

What happened in Montreal was male privilege at its worst, or at least at its most blatant.

But it wasn’t unique. On December 6th, we remember what happened in Montreal and the 14 women killed by Marc Lepine. But we also remember that what happened in Montreal did not happen to those 14 women simply because Marc Lepine was a sick man who could not face the challenges of life and needed to lash out against someone. Anyone.  It happened to those 14 women because Marc Lepine felt he deserved something that they had, that he was entitled to something that they had gotten unjustly. What happened in Montreal happened because of what we call male privilege. Not exclusively – this does not mean that Marc Lepine was “society’s fault”, that he had no control and bore no responsibility for his actions. But when I hear men expressing sentiments ranging from entitlement, to resentment, to anger, to rage at what they have lost and what has been taken from them by feminists and feminism and women, this is what I’m thinking about.

This is where “lest we forget” matters, to me. Because what happened in Montreal is happening now.

Could Someone Please Tell Me…

….what Michaelle Jean is thinking? Because actually, this assessment seems pretty accurate.

Now, prorogation seems to me to be definitely in the realm of higher-level courses in Canadian political science, and at least part of the story seems to be that she’s doing it because that’s pretty much the way it goes for the GG when the PM calls to prorogue parliament. But there’s not really any precedent for calling for prorogation mainly because you think maybe you’re going to lose.

Fucking fuck, is all I really have to say at this point.

Democracy 101

Matttbastard, as per usual, is doing a great job staying on top of the various relevant points that are coming out now that there’s something big happening in Canadian politics. The links he’s got on his various posts over there flesh out better than I ever could the whats, hows and whys of this possible progressive coalition government.

Me, I still get tempted to scroll down just that little bit into the CBC comment zone. I know I shouldn’t. I know it will cause me pain. But I also know that this is what the general Canadian public thinks about how our government works, or should work. There are a lot of good comments over there that are explaining why words like “treason” and “coup” are, frankly, fucking ridiculous, but there are lot of others from more moderate voices opposing this coalition in principle. The basic argument (the one that isn’t based on either “Lions and tigers and separatists and socialists, oh my” or “Jack Layton is an evil lying scumbag politician who makes political deals and has political negotiations with other politicians behind the scenes! Shouldn’t you be outraged now, hypocrite lefties?!?”) says that this minority Conservative government is the one that we as Canadians elected fair and square and that any change in governing party or PM would have to go through another election process. Many of these also include some hefty tones of bitterness suggesting that the left-wingers were the ones who wanted an election in the first place, so we should continue to want another one instead of supporting this “undemocratic” course of action.

Okay. Even beyond the nuances of coalition, and how it might work especially given the negotiations over cabinet seats for the smaller party and the role of the Bloc, how hard is it, really, to understand that this is exactly the point of a parliamentary structure? Anyone who’s looked at the theory of the Canadian political structure beyond the very basics understands that the PM is not, in theory, necessarily the leader of the party with the most seats (minority or majority), (s)he’s the person identified by the representatives as best able to make the government function by gaining the support of the majority of parliament. In practise, that person is usually the leader of the party with the most seats, even in a minority government, but an organized coalition of opposition parties to such a minority in a time when trust in the government is seriously threatened by, say, a global financial meltdown, would be exactly the exception to that rule.

Maybe that’s actually Canadian politics 201 or so, and my snarky title is unwarranted from that angle, but my main source of frustration is actually the continued demonstration of outright laziness on the part of the electorate. I think I was 19 or 20 when I read John Ralton Saul’s book Reflections of a Siamese Twin and suddenly woke up to this idea of participatory democracy (I’m not the biggest fan of Saul anymore, and I do realize now that there are far more challenging thinkers who are hitting that drum a lot harder and a lot more directly, but I was young and just beginning to emerge from my shell of mainstream complacency). At that point, it was actually news to me to imagine that we don’t have to think of democracy as something that only happens when we mark an X on a little piece of paper. Once a government is elected, we the people, whether we voted for them or not, do have the right/responsibility to try to influence their policies, and opposition parties do have the absolute duty to try to pull those policies in the direction of what those who voted for them would expect. Really a radical concept, I know, but I was a teenager during the Harris government in Ontario, when the most common response to any kind of a non-Conservative political opinion was basically “You can’t complain – he’s only doing exactly what he promised he would do”. This position was perhaps leveled even more strongly against people who voted for him because they liked some aspects of his position, but then felt that maybe he had gone a little too far, or wanted to speak out against other policy issues. And I remember being a loud and passionate but somewhat inarticulate 17 year old, feeling completely baffled as to how to respond to that point, not because I thought it was a good one, really, but because I kinda just didn’t know where to start.

Democracy is not an all or nothing proposition. That should be simple, but the philosophical position underlying that argument during the Harris government, and the current argument that the Harper government won fair and square and therefore the opposition parties have no right/authority to form this kind of a coalition, or that they would be going against the will of the electorate in doing so, is that “the will of the people” can only be expressed through marks on papers and those Xs demonstrate complete agreement with everything the party next to them says at any time, ever, regardless of the circumstances. Nuance not allowed. Negotiations not allowed. Shifting positions as new information becomes available definitely not allowed.

You know what’s undemocratic? Complacency. Casting a vote – or fuck, not even bothering to cast a vote – without bothering, really, to examine what the issues on the table are or what you might be voting on/for (I wish I could forget how many Ontario voters went to the booth last year not knowing there was a referendum happening, let alone what it was about), then crawling back into a nice, warm bed, singing a round of “Que Sera, Sera” and steadfastly refusing to think about politics until the next time there’s an X to place in a box. Or rather, until someone who believes that democracy actually also happens between election days, that nuances are kind of important, that opposition parties should oppose and might even accomplish something, starts trying to make that work. Then your role as a proponent of such good Canadian values as peace, order and good government is to tell that person to shut up and take it, majority (or the closest thing to it, even when it’s not) rules.

GodDAMN does that piss me off. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go lament the fact that I just wasted an hour or so writing 1000+ words that do not count toward the thousands this little grad student monkey is supposed to be churning out in essay form this week.