Sunday, July 04, 2010

Stuff on my mind...


Just wanted to get some stuff off of my head...

1) World Cup 2010 quarterfinals - Uruguay v. Ghana. Dying moments of extra time in a 1-1 draw. Ghana pressing in the Uruguay box. Dominic Adiyiah's header is sure to find the mark and send Ghana through to the semis. Luis Suarez, an act of last-ditch desperation, blocks the ball from scoring by using his hands. Only problem is, Suarez is a striker, not a goalie. He's sent off with a straight red and Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan steps to the line to bury the game-winning penalty kick. Except he misses and Ghana goes on to lose on penalty kicks.

Then the most confusing thing that I've ever seen in sports happens. People start saying that Suarez cheated (Cathal Kelly). That Ghana deserved to win and should have won and Uruguay shouldn't be rewarded for breaking the rules. But how were they rewarded by breaking the rules? They were penalized for breaking the rules, by losing a player, arguably their best player. Ghana rewarded them for breaking the rules by not scoring penalty kicks. If Ghana deserved to win, wouldn't they have won? Why would anyone think they deserve to win after missing 3 penalty kicks out of 5? When did we start saying professional athletes are supposed to let game-winning shots fly into the net when they have a chance to stop them? I just keep going back to the basketball analogy. If Dwight Howard is about to dunk the basketball in Game 7 of NBA finals and you have a choice to let him dunk the ball to win it all, or foul him and send him to the line, is that even a choice? Of course you foul him and watch him miss two free throws. Who would call that cheating? That's the game. The object is to stop people from scoring. No one in the world would think twice about sending Howard to the line. He'd miss two chances to win it for his team and you'd go to overtime. And if you ended up winning the championship in overtime, they'd say that was the smartest foul in the history of basketball. You committed a foul, a violation, you were penalized, you robbed someone of certain points and now the guy has to win the game at the line. But Suarez is there at the goal line and he can decide to definitely lose the game now or possibly lose the game five minutes from now. And these people are arguing, "Nah, let it go in." If someone could explain to me how these two scenarios are different, my phone number is 647-705-5347 and I'm waiting for your call.

2) Went sailing with Sarah. We were out on a catamaran - I even did the whole trapeze thing, hanging out over the edge, floating above the water as it raced beneath me. The wind was pushing the damn thing pretty fast, and it occurred to me, it was crazy how much sailing was about feeling: feeling the resistance of the water against the boat, feeling the resistance of the wind against the sail, feeling the center of gravity of the hull. I only get that complete sensation of thoughtlessness, of concentrated feeling, when I practice Karate, where you have to listen to the world through your body, but the experience is utterly the same. Sarah somehow knew when a gust was coming - I think she said something about watching the surface of the water, the change in ripples perhaps - and when the wind would take us, I could hear her say "Woo-hoo" like this was as new and exciting for her as it was for me. And I think it was.

3) I think Kareem is going to propose to Kristi any day now. I saw the ring. Such a strange ride they've been on, for so long. I wonder if they had known when the first got together that they'd still be tangling after all this time whether they would have gone through with it. In this, his relationship with her, I must confess I really don't know what is going through his head. It's a side of him that I know nothing about, that I can't even imagine penetrating - and I see now what some of my friends must feel when they look at there's this side of me that is very politely, but very concretely, off-limits. With respect to Kristi, Kareem seems to have both a great deal of love and a great deal of disdain for her, and to be perfectly honest, its easier to see the disdain than the love. I could tell you all sorts of things that he's said about her that he doesn't like, but if you gave me five minutes to talk about what he adores about her, I don't think I could fill the time. I can only figure that what he loves about her are the moments they share alone - and she's always seemed pleasant enough to be around. But they have a way about them. Something I can't quite put my finger on but I'd be lying if I said that I thought they were a pair to go the distance. I don't like being cynical like that, but I just don't believe that love and history are enough. You have to have more than that to grow old with someone.

4) NBA finals. Game 7 was one of the most unpleasant games of basketball I've ever seen. From Kobe's worst-playoff game of all time, to Ray Allen's horrible shooting - I honestly would have preferred watching a pair of bums like Nate Robinson and Big Baby Davis winning Game 4 all over again. I actually remember the 'Showtime' Lakers and the 'Larry the Ultimate Evil' Celtics and I swear, Magic and Bird, by themselves, could have scored 100 on either of those teams. They called the game some kind of defensive marvel - that's what people who don't know basketball and aren't used to seeing NBA teams putting up 120 on 50% shooting from pure jumpers say when it occurs to them players today don't know how to shoot a basketball. What does defense have to do with shooting 3s? Or making free throws? Or conquering Game 7 jitters? I really wanted the Lakers to win because I feel that good defense comes from moving your feet and being athletic and the Celtics aren't young enough to do either of those things. But by the end of it I just wanted the season to be over and for the shopping of 'Bron, D-Wade, and Bosh to begin.

5) I'm taking so many courses to get my GPA up my counselor said I might as well add a major in physiology to my degree. So now I have 2 majors and a minor.

6) Got a new phone. Nokia N900. It does so much stuff and the difference between it and the E61 I had a few years back is mind-boggling. But the battery life is distressingly bad. I suppose its because I'm doing so much stuff at the same time: emailing, IM, SMS, calls, surfing, listening to music and watching martial arts videos. Just being able to go on the internet at any time, to have any question answered at a moment's notice - it's like crack cocaine. It's like magic to me and I imagine it's just old hat to you. My grandkids have probably been doing that since they were crawling. And Wind Mobile's service - I have no complaints. Maybe I just don't know enough to complain, but I have no complaints.

7) The G20. Where to begin? I was having a discussion with Prasanna about my misgivings about popular uprisings as they have been conceived in contemporary times. I see images of all those people on the lawn at Queen's Park, all throughout my time at UofT and it seems so obvious to me that out of 100 causes that get people together on that lawn, only 10 of them will be addressed by the people inside the building and only 1 will be dealt with as the crowd wanted. Political change doesn't happen because of popular sentiment. It happens through the combination of 1) popular sentiment and 2) political action i.e. actions of politicians. And my skepticism about the folks on the lawn is that they don't really believe that this second part is necessary. They seem to think that if they get enough cameras out there and give enough speeches and sing enough slogans that tomorrow will be a brighter day. This is a delusion. The civil rights' movement, the suffragettes, the abolitionist movement, Ganhdi - these all worked not just because they had feet on the ground. They also had a sympathetic ear among the powers that be. That ear might be your husband lying in bed next to you, or it might be colonial leaders tired of governing muslims and hindus or it might be the 16th or 35th President of the United States. But change happens when there is a meeting of interests between those on the inside and those on the outside.

So how then do the pointless confrontations between protesters and police officers bring about change? I have no idea. I'd be very interested in what percentage of protesters i) vote, ii) know by heart the voting record of their MPs and their party and iii) could tell you what bills are working their way through Parliament and why. It's a low percentage. They want to change a system and they don't even really know how it works. That isn't to say that it isn't broken. The system definitely could use some improvement. But would you try and replace the engine in your car because you had the feeling a lawn mower engine could do better? Or would you open up a book and figure out how the damn thing works and whether you could improve upon it?

I've come to the conclusion that "social activism" is more popular than running for public office because...wait for's a lot easier to become an activist than a politician. It's not that the activist doesn't want change. It's just that the first I can do from behind a computer and on a lawn, and the second I have to put my name out there, raise money, talk to people that I disagree with, understand every side to an issue, be familiar with most of the issues, pick a side, make friends, make enemies, try not to lose my soul, and try to keep my job four years from now. But it's clear that the main problem with the system is that people with the activist's fervor - with the common touch - almost never become politicians. Rich people who like power and influence become politicians. So more often than not, there are no sympathetic ears inside the building for all those people out on the lawn. They'll ignore you and take their chances four years from now.

The only time popular uprising can bring about change alone is when the people on the lawn are so numerous that they surround the building. When they are so many that the politicians see a sea of votes in front of them. But how often is it that greater than a tenth of the franchised population of a community can agree on anything? 4,000 people on a lawn, or marching against police? A group of Sri Lankans walking onto the Gardiner...out of 2 million Torontonians, to say nothing of Ontario, and all of Canada? Not even a blip on the radar.

My second feeling about the G20 is harder to describe but I'll give it a go. Sacrifices were made to create North America. Sacrifices in blood and sweat and tears. Black people sacrificing their lives on plantations. Chinese people sacrificing their lives building railways. Natives sacrificing their lives fighting against invaders, a people obliterated. European colonists sacrificing their souls by doing some pretty heinous stuff in the name of progress. People sacrificed for what they believed in - be it independence from Britain, or to live in one place over another, or to preserve their way of life. People sacrificed their lives in war against what I would describe as true evil. Fighting Hitler wasn't fighting against 'bad' or 'wrong'. It was fighting against Evil with a capital 'E', the force that would destroy everything, even itself eventually. People who make sacrifices can talk about the biggest words that our minds can conceive. Words like: freedom, justice, liberty, equality, right. Whether they wanted to or not, they walked the walk. They earned it.

But people today don't make sacrifices. We just talk the talk. We don't sacrifice our time to vote. It's more fashionable to be anti-politics. We don't sacrifice our time to be informed. It's more fashionable to be blase. We don't sacrifice our time to serve. Here in the Western World we make a lot of good things but we largely live resting on the laurels of other people who had to make the hard decisions. Other people had to make decisions on driving natives off of land, on going to war to actually protect us, of creating universal healthcare. And because other people did that, I can have a hot shower anytime I want and I've never wondered if my water was safe to drink, or whether a police officer was going to shoot me in the head and roll my body down a ditch - luxuries...LUXURIES that 99% of humanity haven't had in the past, don't have now and won't have for the foreseeable future.

So when I hear about people who sacrifice nothing complaining about 'police state', and having their rights 'trampled on', people who stand idly by while good ol' fashion thugs break store windows like this is 1930's Germany, I shake my head. It just seems, again as in the popular uprising example, it seems like people who don't know anything about fighting for something going through the motions. Police in riot gear therefore Dalton McGuinty is Stalin. Security perimeter goes up therefore we are in East Berlin.

Hardly. We who live lives of such awesome tranquility and luxury have precious little right to compare our experience over these few days to those who lived it for their whole lives. It's just such an ignorant and indulgent comparison. And worse of all, those who feel comfortable making that comparison are so deluded that they probably won't recognize the true threats to their freedoms when they do come. They'll always be looking for the wrong things. We're inconvenienced for 3 whole days and, watch out for the secret police and the late night round ups and the prisoners that disappear from lock-up. If Harper was passing a law right now that outlawed the right of accused to counsel, everyone in Canada should ask themselves whether they'd even know about it?

For all intents and purposes, with the leaders of the 20 most powerful countries on our planet all in the same place, Toronto was the biggest bulls-eye on Earth. If you were a (violent) protester and you figured the best way to bring about change was to kill the people in the building, Toronto was that building. That is an exceptional circumstance, but people acted like in exceptional circumstances their shouldn't be any exceptions. That's pretty childish. Would a shitload of ominous looking security measures make it more or less likely that someone would try to smuggle a nuke into the downtown core? Crisis of imagination. It's the reason planes flew into buildings.

But we don't see that. We have no experience in fighting for liberty or earning liberty or protecting liberty, so we don't know what we should be looking for. I could, as always, be wrong - and all those people who saw the G20 as a failure of politicians to protect our rights rather than a success in protecting our bodies - they could all be spot on and the G20 could turn out to be the stepping stone to the death of freedom and liberty in Canada. But we aren't shooting one another yet and to me that's something.

- Kamil


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