Doré Bak

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Love Stalks: A Novella

Like continental shifts, the changes in Canadian society may feel imperceptible to the mainstream population. Yet the consequences in the lives of individuals are seismic and may even be violent in some not so distant future. Like the bird in the coal mine shaft, a neurotic individual acts like the harbinger of an imminent catastrophe.

When I was living in Toronto I felt uneasy as Canadian society became more multicultural and more multi-ethnic. One might surmise that being Chinese, I would welcome Canada’s embracing of diversity. On the contrary, as the ideology of diversity gains prominence in Toronto during the 1980s-1990s, I felt more like an outsider in the very land of my birth–Canada. The value of diversity in society is hotly debated as it has never been before in Canada. Perhaps more effective than argument or even rational discourse is to put the other person into my shoes. I believe the novel is one of those art forms that can allow strangers to walk in my shoes in order for them to feel what I feel.

The growing sense alienation during my time in Toronto gave birth to a work of fiction that I entitled Love Stalks. It was a full novel at one point, over 260 pages, but under advisement of a wise Hebrew teacher, I cut it down in half. He remarked that something as dark as my story, lacking humour, interest in the story could best be sustained in its reduced length. I hope the current re-write recovers what I had always thought is my unique sense of humour. But yes, my teacher is right. Alienation can only be sipped in small doses. Albert Camus’ The Stranger is a good example of that.

Love Stalks begins as in many stories with a man and a girl. Except that in Love Stalks, the girl is more imagined than real. Lester Chang is the man. The girl is a blonde, usually evoked by the bank teller named Brenda. Lester wants to get laid. It has to be with a blonde, hopefully Brenda. He needs to have sex with a white woman in order to feel validated as a Canadian. His only interaction with Brenda is at the bank. This does not stop him from fantasizing a love interest in her. Less psychotic than the David Kelsey character in Patricia Highsmith’s This Sweet Sickness, but nonetheless very much echoes Kelsey in his neurosis and detachment from reality. A chance meeting with Brenda in Lester`s favorite place of sanctuary, the movie theatre, not only proves he is an inadequate romantic but his strained efforts at appearing more European in her eyes have failed miserably despite his superior knowledge of European history.

Reality is relentless coming in the form of Lester’s mother who hounds him to bring a date to his father’s seventieth birthday party. Nonchalantly, he calls up a female friend named Wilma Fung to invite to the party. He realizes that he is crazier than he first thought. His last hope for a date is some Chinese version of a Rita Hayworth lookalike named Lily he met at a church young people’s function that he attends with his cousin. His hope in Lily as a date is dashed when she reveals she is renewing a romance with an urban planner.

Lester’s usual outlet in prostitutes turns out to be a dud as the night’s prostitute does not get around to role playing BDSM. Then he wanders about Toronto in search of someone who reminds him of Brenda, the blonde bank teller. He buys bondage paraphernalia. When he encounters the brunette Maureen, a secretary from work, standing on the middle of a bridge, he offers her a ride and soon drives her home. There he faces his true identity and his lust for Maureen wells up.

Love Stalks: A Novella is now available at Amazon: Paperback or Kindle.

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The Danger of Human Rights Code as Cure for Microaggressions

When a white person makes casual but hurtful expressions in front of a person of a minority group, these expressions, whether verbal or non-verbal, define the term “microaggressions”. The assumption is that the white person belongs to the majority or the group with the authority or power. It does not matter if the white person expressing a microaggression is aware of it or not. It only matters if the person receiving such expression feels hurt. In this essay, I first share some of my own personal experience with microaggressions, in order to demonstrate the accumulation of put downs, however slight, do lead to emotional pain and possible psychological damage. Of greater concern is the application of human rights legislation to curb the use of microaggression opens up a greater danger–the loss of a crucial principle of our modern civilization in the West, the loss of the freedom of speech.

First, I share my own experience with microaggression, and then discuss the current scene after the passing into law Bill C-16 and the havoc wrecked by way of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I present two recent examples of the muzzling of free speech, one in Olympia, Washington on the US Westcoast and the second in Toronto, Ontario in the Eastern Canada.

Children wield name-calling as a vicious weapon in the schoolyard. As a Chinese born in Canada, I have experienced its sharp edge while growing up in a little town on the Canadian prairies, where I was usually the only Chinese kid in my class. Quite often, kids spewed at me invective like “Ching Chong Chinaman” or “Chink”. Grownups were somewhat politer but still thrust “foreignness” on me. “What race are you, Japanese, Chinese?” The more cosmopolitan ones might correct themselves, “Oh, I’m sorry. I meant what nationality are you?” Grownups could still be hurtful when they actually name-called, “Rice Burner!”

Blatant racist name-calling has receded over the years. Instead, a subtler and nuanced discrimination replaces blatant racism. Just this past summer, a young man, all smiles, wearing a man-bun and a vest with the words “Greenpeace”, clipboard in hand, approached me and asked, “Did anyone tell you that you look like David Suzuki?” I said, “No, I don’t like the guy”. My remarks confused the Greenpeace canvasser who then quietly turned away. Fact is, Prof. Suzuki, the environmentalist, is ethnic Japanese, and I am ethnic Chinese. Unlike the good professor, I am one of the skeptics when it comes to climate change as the harbinger of the apocalypse.

When liberals invoke inclusiveness with the line, “We’re all immigrants after all”, I silently shout for someone, preferably with long fingernails, to scratch a blackboard. Now let me say slowly, I am not an immigrant. I was born on Canadian soil, and proud of it.

Over the long run, harsh racial slurs did not bother me as much as the well-intended speech of progressives and liberals. In graduate school, the dean of students spotted me for the first time during a barbecue and readily introduced himself to me. He presented himself as very friendly, and indeed he was sincere, no doubt about it. He was soft-spoken and pleasant. Then came the question I dread. He asked me, “Are you Japanese?” You may substitute “Chinese” or “Korean” for “Japanese”, and I would still feel the same, disappointed and angry. Here we go again, another confirmation that I may never truly be Canadian despite being born on Canadian soil. I do get it that this particular graduate school marketed itself to and attracted international students, but the majority of students still were either Americans or Canadians from other parts of Anglophone North America. What bothered me was that while the good dean was a Swede born in Europe and I was born in Canada, most people would see him as the Canadian or American and I as the foreigner.

What irritates me even more is when other liberally minded folks come along and attribute such mistaken identity phenomenon to the recent flux of new immigrants from Asia. I remind them our country’s history had a significant Chinese presence before Confederation. Why the default: You are Canadian, and I am Chinese? I do not understand why. Even with the onset of the ideology of diversity, white people usually assume that I am a foreigner who they treat with greater respect than they give the average Canadian.

On the other hand, in the case of overt racism, I can tolerate a garden-variety racist. I write off this sort of blatant racism as simple ignorance. If the cause stems from pure hatred against somebody who looks different, I can endure such a racist. It is with the self-proclaimed liberal that in the course of normal every day discourse, e.g., “By the way I use chop sticks”. These casual comments remind me that I look like an immigrant receiving the graciousness of the liberal heart attuned to diversity. Puke. I just want to puke.

It gets even messier when I take a more rational perspective. You might think it is obvious that people can tell I am a Canadian by my accent. If only people listen before they jump to the wrong conclusions about my nationality, would all be well on the identity front? The fact is I do have an accent that is not mainstream Canadian. The best parallel example I can think of is the Jewish community in New York. American Jews from that area do speak with an accent descended from European Jews who very likely spoke Yiddish. Anyone listening to someone like Woody Allen, probably would conclude he speaks in the English dialect of a Jew from Brooklyn. No one listening to him speak English would assume he is a European immigrant or someone foreign to America. The automatic assumption is that Woody Allen is an American Jew. In contrast, when I slip in speech or pause longer than I should, the automatic assumption is that I speak good English for a Chinese, and Canadians would ask where I learned English. The liberal minded at this point is surely impressed with himself or herself: what magnanimity to compliment a newly arrived immigrant’s English skills. Unlike in the case of the American Jew, there is a continuation of the theme of the immigrant: “How long have you been in Canada?” “Where are you from?” “Are you Chinese?” The monotony of gentle reminders of me as foreign is ad nauseam. Some of us Canadian born Chinese do speak with an accent when we speak English but it is a Canadian accent, although it is not Peter Mansbridge or Peter Jennings’s dialect, it nonetheless is an accent peculiar to a specific group born and raised in Canada, not some foreign immigrant group.

I want my fellow Canadians to speak to me as though I am a fellow Canadian. Simply, I want recognition as Canadian, without hyphen, without qualification. In my mother’s opinion, Canadians do not see me as Canadian, plain and simple. People will always see me as Chinese first despite how strongly I want to be simply Canadian. She says I can never change people’s perception. I have yellow skin. Therefore, I am Chinese, no matter how hard I try to change that perception. In in recent years, I conclude she is right. This crisis in identity was probably one of the reasons I ended up seeing a psychiatrist and then entered group therapy for seven weeks during my sophomore year in university.

What I have described so far are my emotional reactions to casual slights alluding to me as Chinese immigrant despite my strong feelings as Canadian. To my surprise, psychiatrists and psychologists have a term for the cause of my emotional responses: “microaggressions”. Dr. Charles Pierce first coined this term in 1973 while he was professor of psychiatry at Harvard University where he noticed the effects of non-blacks making casual but disparaging remarks on blacks. Later Columbia psychology professor Dr. Derald Wing Sue picked up the term and expanded its usage: “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership“. Group membership obviously refer to minority groups. Who are the minorities? They would include but not limited to minorities by race, sexual orientation, disability and religion. More recently, the definition of a minority includes transgender people who identify themselves by how they experience gender in their personal lives and how they sense of being a female, a male, somewhere in between or something not defined in society. They do not fit neatly into the usual binary, female and male.

The transgender person is someone who identifies oneself not by biological sexual gender assigned at birth but by one’s interior experience of how the gender identity presents itself in society. For example, society may perceive a person as male biologically at birth, but this person later chooses to present as a female in society. The person may express gender in dress, activities and outward appearance such as hairstyles. This person may or may be sexually attracted to the opposite sex. Sex orientation is not always identical to gender according to theories defining gender as a social construct. The Ontario Human Rights Commission hold the above mentioned definitions of gender and transgender, despite there being no scientific consensus on biological research that may affect gender studies.

Although I am a heterosexual male, I think I do know how the transgender (trans) folks feel, because I lived the experience of a marginalized racial minority during my younger years. I do feel the alienation and the slow but continual caustic effect of words have on the psyche. I believe my experience is very similar to that experienced in the LGBTQIE community [1] when it comes to language usage. Some LGBTQIE community members advocate the use of certain specific pronouns. These pronouns are in addition to the traditional binary, male and female pronouns, when describing specific members of the LGBTQIE community. That, I believe, is perfectly acceptable and I appreciate their attempt to identify themselves the way they want. I do differ though with those within the LGBTQIE community who advocate the use of certain specific pronouns by force of law. That I could be punished or labelled a criminal in the eyes of a court who interprets the Criminal Code in light of federal and provincial human rights codes for not using the approved pronoun when I address transgender people.

I would like everyone to recognize me as Canadian, but that will never consistently happen. I feel hurt, but should there be a law passed in Parliament forcing my fellow Canadians to call me Canadian? If they mistake me for Asian, should they pay a fine? Should their names go on a registry of language offenders? Maybe even do jail time? Of course, this is not an acceptable course of action. Force, whether by bare knuckles or by Parliament, cannot change a person’s heart. (Corrosive puritan aspects of the Protestant Reformation prove that morality ought not to be legislated.) The most destructive kind of censorship though is self-censorship. It gradually eats away at the soul whenever one is forced to say something but do not believe it is true. This was what happened in Stalinist Russia. Imagine parents fearing their children might report their spoken words back to some bureaucrat who ruled with an iron fist. That was Russia ruled by Stalin. The same atmosphere of fear is rising too on Canadian soil.

What evidence is there that the ghost of Stalin is making itself felt in the second largest country in the world, which is my home Canada?

Something happened in the 1990s in how white folks respond to minority groups. An example will suffice. It was in a writing class while we were commenting on each other’s manuscripts; I fell into a half daze. Do not recall why the stupor, but I was out of it. The class was commenting on the draft script of a pretty, young Spanish-English woman. Someone commented about the name of one of the female characters in her play script. There was a buzz about how the character’s name rhymed with the word “tofu”. Being half-awake, I missed most of the discussion but suddenly woke up at the word “tofu”. Someone asked the class if everybody got it. I raised my hand, thinking that asking a question is as good as participating in a class discussion. I said sincerely, “I don’t get it.” A hush descended in the classroom. There was something not quite like fear, but only a notch or two below terror, appeared in her face as she looked at me. I remarked once again that I simply did not get it. The whole class was quiet and hesitant, staring at me. This is the other side of words, the fearful pansy. Only many years later did I realize that everyone was afraid of being labelled a racist. In so avoiding the label “racist”, everybody got uptight and remained silent. This was an early warning that free speech was dying in Canada.

Within the recent past year or two, events rush ahead and catch many people by surprise, especially the older folks who still remember news coverage of Martin Luther King and the beginning of Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California. During those heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, a Canadian newspaper in Vancouver called The Georgia Straight made headlines showing photos of naked male bodies, underscoring that free speech is fundamental to a democratic society. In contrast, today students call professors “Nazis” or “white supremacists” for open discussion on ideas and research that simply differ from the opinion of certain members of minority groups.

A professor of evolutionary biology, Bret Weinstein commented that the students went too far in their demand for all white students to be absent from an annual event called Day of Absence at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He sent comments in a polite letter to Rashida Love, the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services. She had introduced a new wrinkle to the college’s Day of Absence. It is a tradition in which, until this year, minority students of colour would be absent from the college as a re-enactment based on a stage play in which black college students were absent from campus for a day in order to discuss race issues–a gesture of protest in the original event. The new wrinkle to this year’s Day of Absence is the requirement that white students, instead of the colour students, be absent from campus, and that all white professors cancel their classes. Weinstein remarked that unlike the traditional event when the black students voluntarily left campus as a gesture of protest, the request this year that white students be absent by administrative fiat are not comparable. He refused to comply with the demands of the students for him to cancel his classes. The professor argued that the students’ demand for whites to be absent, when such request is forced and coerced, is against free speech. For the exercise of his freedom of speech, students vilified and labelled him as a “white supremacist”. The irony is that he is Jewish and an advocate of leftist movements such as Occupy Wall Street.

A mob of students confronted Weinstein first in his classroom and then spread throughout the college. The college administration ordered the police to stand down and allow 200 students to harass Weinstein and staff into hiding in a section of the library and administration block. He had to continue his class off campus. The police warned Weinstein that they could not guarantee his safety. Of course, they could not because the college president had asked the police to stand down. The fear of reprisal by the student mob was so palpable that the college president George Bridges pandered to their wishes. When a student asked him to drop his hands to his side because he showed acts of microaggression in his hand movements, he meekly complied. Then the students all jeered and laughed.

Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying both eventually resigned from their faculty positions at Evergreen College. They sued the college as they feared for their physical and psychological well-being since the college administration did not ensure a safe teaching environment for them. The two parties settled for $450,000 in Weinstein and Heying’s favour plus the professors’ legal cost of $50,000.

Closer to home in Toronto, Canada, Dr. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, became the focal point of harassment by students claiming him to be a white supremacist for a series of three videos entitled “Professor against political correctness” released on Youtube in September 2016 about his concerns of political correctness suppressing free speech. His concerns find their basis in the federal Bill C-16 (now law) introducing the new categories of gender identity and expression, along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s interpretation of pronoun usage, the evolution of human resources departments as enforcer of political correctness, and the new Marxism creeping into the classroom and workplace by way of post-modernist ideology.

Students reacted vehemently to Peterson’s politically incorrect videos. Trans students accused him of being a bigot or racist, and alleged him of creating an atmosphere of fear on campus. Some alleged Peterson inspired followers to threaten them. The door of his office was glued shut. A group of non-binary gender students held a protest rally. A counter rally of his supporters ensued in which a trans person was charged for assault. Some of his faculty colleagues condemned him on TV and social media. Heads from the arts and science faculty, and the department of psychology sent him letters, asking him to stop repeating his politically incorrect views and comply with human rights legislation. Unfortunately, his publicity also attracted red-blooded white supremacists and neo-Nazis, whom Peterson deplored.

His biggest controversy might very well be his refusal to use trans pronouns compelled under legislation in Ontario, as he interprets it. In a debate at a University of Toronto forum, law professor Brenda Crossman said that the standard for hate speech as a criminal act is set at so high a bar that merely refusing the use of trans pronouns would not put him against the law unless he called for genocide. He would have no grounds for fear, she said. Peterson did not buy into that interpretation and felt current laws are the thin edge of the wedge that, if not checked, would someday outlaw free speech completely. The current legislation under the Ontario Human Rights Code and their interpretation by the Human Rights Commission were on unstable grounds.[2] For example, who gets to define “hate speech”?

He did not back off from any debate, even taking on crowds outdoors on the campus grounds. Members of the LGBTQIE accused him of a being a Nazi despite decades of study on the subject and his complete repudiation of Nazi ideology. The number of his followers grew just as fast as his detractors grew. He obviously touched a raw nerve in many who viewed his videos, especially young men, who have been feeling that political correctness has gone too far. Joe Rogan, formerly host of the TV show The Fear Factor, arranged to meet him along with Dr. Bret Weinstein for a September 1, 2017 podcast to discuss the tyranny of political correctness.

A panel discussion “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses” was scheduled at Ryerson University in Toronto for August 22, 2017. Speakers included Peterson. A young woman and another man created a Facebook page and rallied protesters to shut down the announced forum. Originally, the header showed an image of a crossed-out Nazi swastika, until presumably threats of legal action may have compelled her to replace the image. What intrigues me about this woman is that she does not seem well known in leftist activist circles until this event. At the time, she has a paltry number of followers on her Twitter account, less than 80. Her goal was to stop the panel discussion from happening. She managed to rally support from “her community” along with support from the student body. She drummed up clichés such “No Fascists in Our City”, or “We are here to celebrate our diversity.” She managed to have her people harass the university administration into submission via emails and phone calls. The Ryerson University administration capitulated and cancelled the panel discussion for fear of violence erupting, and free speech died at Ryerson University.

I see our society as a very fragile one, in which the hurt feelings of some imperil the freedom of speech of all. My feelings are hurt too over the years by racism, but the bigger threat is the loss of my right to speak freely.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] LGBTQIE stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.

[2] On May 17, 2016, Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould sponsored Bill C-16 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. The bill is a short one. It inserts the single phrase “gender identity or expression” into Section 2, The Purpose and Section 3(b) the prohibited grounds of discrimination of the Human Rights Act. Similarly, this phrase is inserted in the Criminal Code in Subsection 318(4), Definition of identifiable group and Section 4, Subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) regarding what is considered evidence of a hate crime in the matter of sentencing.

On June 19, 2017, Bill C-16 received Royal Assent and became law in Canada.

The Ontario Human Rights Code was modified even earlier to include “gender identity” and “gender expression”. It can be and has been interpreted the act of refusing to use a trans pronoun when a trans person insist on the speaker to use a trans pronoun as an act of discrimination.

How we came to the current state of affairs where white people, especially white men, are afraid of speaking their minds in case they might offend the sensibility of a minority, I am at a loss for words. Dr. Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto offers a probable cause in the majority of the liberal arts professors casting postmodernist ideas into a Marxist ideological framework and pursuing an agenda of identity politics. See his postings on Youtube.

Free Speech Died in Vancouver–August 19, 2017

I am well acquainted with racism. I was born in Canada when no political correctness ruled people’s thought or behaviour. I grew up in a small prairie town where the kids called me names like “Chinky Chinaman”. Some of my classmates once ganged up on me in the schoolyard, and one of the boys pounced on me as I lay prone and stuffed dry grass into my mouth. On another occasion, a blonde, freckled face boy threatened me with a rusty jackknife near my neck. The racism of the adults was more subtle. At my first job in Toronto, after riding the elevator several times, I familiarized myself with a few new faces. One day, in the elevator I greeted the woman who worked in the arts in the office next door. She turned and stared at me. She said nothing. She just stared. Afterwards, the only times she would speak to me is when she needed me to do a favour for her, like signing for a courier package when their staff was absent from their office.

These days, something far more sinister than racism infuses the public spaces. It begins with people who think they are standing up for the rights of minorities in Canada–my human rights.

A group of such social-minded people congregated at the City Hall of Vancouver on August 19, 2017, a Saturday. They gathered as counter-protesters to demonstrate against a pro-white protest rally scheduled for 2:00 PM. Anti-immigration and anti-Islam groups had organized this pro-white protest rally. One of the more level headed organizers interviewed later on Global News TV was Brad Salzberg of the Cultural Action Party. In a calm demeanor, he denied any belief in white supremacy but feared the potential imposition of Islamic ideology and Sharia law on Canadian society by Islamic immigrants. He felt European and Anglo Saxon peoples were maligned in the last 40 years or so. I think he had a good point. If in Canada every non-white ethnic group can feel free to celebrate their heritage and culture, why cannot the white people also have pride in their own histories?

I decided to show up at the protest rally to eat my corned beef sandwich on rye and to witness the scheduled anti-Islam and anti-immigration speeches, and anticipate a debate between the pro-white protesters and the counter-protesters. An ad hoc group of counter-protesters calling themselves “Stand Up to Racism” arose. By the time I arrived shortly before 2:00 PM, there was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd gathered around City Hall. Some estimated the size of the crowd to be about 4,000 attendees. Virtually everyone there were counter-protesters all united in their hatred of the white supremacist ideology. Most of the placards showed their disfavor of anyone who took a pro-white stand: “Deport the racist,” “You were once an immigrant too,” and “Diversity = Strength”. Some placards showed much creativity. One especially stuck in my mind: “Jesus was an undocumented immigrant.”

I ate my sandwich and banana, and waited for the pro-white speakers to show up. Meanwhile, a tall, lanky black man, who appeared he might be from the Show Me State of Missouri but spoke with a Caribbean accent, stood next to me. (I shall call him Sam, not his real name.) He shared with me his fears; he sensed the crowd was out for blood. We spoke in whispers while the rest of the 4,000 or so crowd around us cheered with undulated raising of fists and shout downs of the vices and evils of the far right and white supremacy. We carried on a vulnerable conversation, an exchange of ideas. Sam said in a quiet and raspy voice, “I know what Trump ought to do to turn this thing around.” Because he asked me not to expose his advice to the President, I will not repeat what he said about his Trump solution, except to say that Sam was an unequivocal Trump supporter. I said that if I were an American and had to choose between Hillary Clinton and Trump, I would choose Trump any day. It was fortunate that I too whispered, as the Southeast Asian man, one of the two men kissing in front of us, slowly turned around and looked for who just misspoke. When he saw my face, he turned away but kept his profile with an ear toward us. I kept telling myself that Canada is a land where free speech was sacrosanct, I shall not fear. Nevertheless, Sam and I were fearful. A scuffle broke out to my right as a half a dozen or so police officers surrounded a shaven-head man in black leather pants and soon escorted him to the outer perimeter. Skinhead, white supremacist, I thought, but later discovered he was a counter-protester tearing a poster away from one of the pro-white protesters.

When it was well past 2:00 PM, there was still no sign of the pro-white speakers. Local politicians took up the mantle. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke platitudes of love not violence. When it was clear that the scheduled pro-white speakers would not show up, shouts of genuine joy made its circuit around the 1936 heritage building that was the City Hall. The counter-protesters patted each other for successfully stopping the “white supremacists”. Mayor Robertson was especially beside himself with glee. He congratulated everyone for promoting love and non-violence, claiming that resulted in the no-show of the hated white supremacists. He later posted on Twitter: “Acts of hate/violence must always be met with non-violent resistance. We need to call out white supremacy/hate speech wherever it happens.” Did the Mayor realize there was no speech whatsoever from the scheduled speakers who wanted to discuss their opposition to Islam and immigration? Did he not ensure the safety of the pro-white speakers and organizers?

For the most part, the counter-protest crowd did not use violence that Saturday, but they nonetheless did scare off many of the pro-white protesters. The intimidation of a 4,000 strong mob of counter-protesters frightened away the pro-white speakers. Pro-white rally organizer Brad Salzberg admitted that he had to cancel because of the frightful size of the counter-protester crowd. The main reason for his fear stemmed from the police telling him that they could not guarantee his safety. This was the same response that the police in Charlottesville gave the White Nationalists there. Another organizer of the pro-white protest Joey DeLuca, President of the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, echoed the fears of Salzberg. Although very upset, having travelled all the way from Alberta to speak in Vancouver, De Luca reluctantly cancelled his speech.

The intimidation tactics of the counter-protesters was evident in the case of a young man who simply held up a hand drawn picture of a green Pepe the Frog. That was enough to anger one of the counter-protesters, also a young man but dressed in black, who then ripped Pepe the Frog to shreds. Apparently, the green frog was an innocuous symbol that became a meme on the Internet, but recently counter-protesters have ascribed to the once innocuous symbol an association with white supremacists and Nazis.

An even scarier segment of the counter-protesters is Antifa (abbr. for Anti Fascists). At the City Hall rally, I saw a few clusters of the Antifa protesters dressed in black and their faces covered except for around their eyes. The Antifa gangs in Charlottesville had used violence in their counter-protest on August 12, 2017. There is now video evidence of young men clad in black and masks beating up pro white protesters who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in small groups or alone in a sea of counter-protesters. I am sure the pro-white speakers scheduled in Vancouver were aware of the violence Antifa had inflected on people they had simply labeled as Nazis or white supremacists in Charlottesville.

As I left the rally to go back downtown, I could count about five or six men, who might pass for white supremacists, milling about at the periphery of the counter-protest rally. One or two of them argued with the counter-protesters. That small number was the total number of pro-white protesters at the City Hall rally that I could see. The South China Morning Post sent a reporter Ian Young to the City Hall rally and he counted 15 persons that belonged to the “white supremacists” camp. According to Young, this group included non-whites, an Aboriginal and a Chinese Canadian. In fact, pro-white organizer Brad Salzberg is Jewish and he was too afraid to show up.

Until August 19, 2017, there was always the hope that dialogue is sufficient to win over a racist, and he could then see for himself that racism is wrong. That hope vaporized on August 19, 2017 when the majority silenced the minority. The mob ruled the day. It was not a day to celebrate, as the so-called progressive liberals would have you believe, but a day of mourning. The racist retreats into hiding to the applause of the self-righteous in Vancouver. When the city government favours the safety of one group over another in a public forum, it is abnegating its responsibility to serve and protect all equally.

Free speech died in Vancouver, Canada on August 19, 2017.

Chinese Tattoo on a White Supremacist?

Either by design or by chance, Christopher Cantwell has become the de facto spokesman and face of the white nationalists’ (i.e., supremacists’) protest against the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia. As one of the organizers of the Unite the Right rally, he landed smack in the middle of the Charlottesville protest rally turned riot last weekend during which a Nazi sympathizer killed a young woman.

During an interview with Vice News correspondent Elle Reeve, the outspoken Christopher Cantwell removes his white T-shirt and reveals a Chinese character for a tattoo on his right arm. The character is 実 (pronounced shi in mandarin). Almost immediately, comments arose online, one blog suggesting it is a Japanese character. I cannot comment on the Japanese as I have never studied Japanese, but can comment on it as a Chinese character. The character 実 on Mr. Cantwell’s right arm is an ancient variant of the modern character 實 in Chinese. The character on Mr. Cantwell is a form rarely seen in modern Chinese. The modern form as a simplified character is 实 (used in mainland China) or as a traditional character 實 (used in Hong Kong or Taiwan). The most common meaning of 實 is “real,” “true” or “solid.” It is the second component of the compound word 事實 (pronounced shi shi in mandarin) meaning “fact.” Although the character 實 also has the dictionary meaning of “fruit,” I have never seen it used as such in anything I have read.

How can Mr. Cantwell be both a white supremacist and someone who has a Chinese character tattooed on his flesh? Some folks suggest white supremacists has a pecking order, ranking Asians below whites but above blacks. For example, the Dutch descendants known as Afrikaans in the previous white regimes of South Africa would deem the Japanese as honorary whites. Perhaps these white South Africans still needed to deal in commerce with the outside world. I would suggest we look past all ideologies and group sins and look at the personal life of a man (or woman) in order to understand his racism. Although I do not know Mr. Cantwell personally, his interview with folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center gives us a hint. There he confesses that his first love is a Korean girl. He almost married a black woman. He even confesses that most of the women he has dated are not white. Since Koreans today normally do not use Chinese characters but use their own version of an alphabet, I surmise that he probably has dated also Japanese or Chinese women. He took on a Chinese tattoo probably to impress a Japanese or Chinese woman. (The Japanese imported the Chinese writing system from China during the Tang Dynasty, I believe.)

In my mind, his choice of Chinese character for the tattoo points us to the core of his racism and bigotry. It has something to do with what is real in the world or what is truth. My hunch is that he shares a notion familiar to me, and I think, familiar to all men. Isn’t it love? Ultimately, despite of our machismo, every man wants love, just as every woman does. And when a man fails in finding love of a woman, only then does he look for truth, solidity in some abstract ideology, sometimes even some stupid ideology. (Here I limit my discussion to romantic love between a man and a woman, granted. I am not qualified to speak on other permutations of love.)

Sitting in the park with the blonde reporter Eve Reese, surrounded by a squad of fellow white supremacists, his true anger reveals itself. He boasts that he and his people are capable of violence, because he makes a loud point that he carries a pistol and goes to the gym all the time. The talk of violence and guns is generic not only of the white supremacists, but of many young men. I am a bit like that myself in my teen years and early twenties, and I am not even white. Mr. Cantwell’s need to point out that he goes to the gym is an attempt to impress a woman who appears to be also a smart and savvy news reporter. His frustration with not getting the pretty blonde is evident in his own words: “… in the hopes that someone more capable will come along and do that, someone like Donald Trump, who does not give his daughter to a Jew…. I don’t think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl” (3:35 minutes into the clip). The key phrase is “that beautiful girl.” The essence of his frustration is not with race politics or immigration, but with the difficulties in simply getting a girlfriend, regardless of race. I suppose that in the beginning, Mr. Cantwell was not a racist nor a white supremacist at all. He simply has a problem getting a girlfriend. I believe that he was not an arrogant man in his younger years. This is borne out by the fact he was willing to date outside his race in search of love. What is a white man to do if he discovers that even non-white women rejects him?

During his one-on-one interview in the North Carolina hotel room with Eve Reeve, he displays himself as the machismo tough guy: three pistols and two rifles. Except for one rifle, he chants out the names of his weapons like a choirboy praying the litany of the saints: Kel-Tec P-3AT 380 ACPGlock 19 9mm, Ruger LC9 9mm, AK. As though to put an exclamation mark at the penultimate end of the litany, he tosses a knife onto the hotel bed. Smiling casually with knowing smirks, he tells the female reporter that he advocates violence. (19:05 minutes into the clip) I see this man as simply showing off in front of a good looking and smart woman. Tough talk about hatred and war on the races is mere bluster.

Here is a man who simply has not fared well with women. That in essence is Mr. Christopher Cantwell’s starting point on race, but I wish to assure him that that is nothing to be ashamed of when he fails in love. We live in the modern world. The chances of finding your soul mate are much less than in Jane Austen’s time and even then the chances of finding true love was already in decline. The modern woman can think for herself, make up her own mind about relationships. She is independent. Today a woman can do her job as well as any man. She can earn her own keep. She does not need a man. Unrequited love is always a risk when there is freewill. That is the bottom line. Mr. Cantwell, you and I are similar, except that you are American and I am Canadian, you are white and I am ethnically Chinese. We simply are men looking for the love of a woman.

At the End of the World, Everyone Wants to Write a Book

“Our earth is degenerate in these latter days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book; indeed the end of the world is approaching.”

–Allegedly an Assyrian inscription, 1500 BC.

 

I first encountered the above quote in the book Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson et al. At first reading, this epigraph mesmerized me by its prophetic tone and the sense of déjà vu, as though the text is a long lost friend, familiar, and yet a mystery stretched over time. When I tried to verify the actual source of the quote, there is not enough evidence to confirm that such an inscription ever existed in ancient times. Variations of the inscription’s text appeared over the last century in various publications, but according to the Quote Investigator, Garson O’Toole, the earliest appearance in an English publication of a similar epigraph was in 1908. The authorship of these variant texts has been attributed to authors in ancient Egyptian, Babylonian as well as the above mentioned, anonymous Assyrian inscriber.

Whether or not such a text actually existed in ancient times no longer concerns me. The thing that intrigues me is whether or not a certain portion of the epigraph makes a true statement about the world we live in. My focus in this article is in the truncated paraphrase: “At the end of the world, every man wants to write a book.”

A more precise hypothesis might be something like: Is there an increased inclination of the literate population to write a book during an apparent decay of the world?

To this end, I find the American novelist Walker Percy helpful. In his view, the world is not necessarily the actual physical world, the planet earth or other such grand structure. What is of utmost importance is the world as the individual sees it. The planet could be perfectly intact, orbiting the sun, human society still alive and functioning at some level, yet a mad man might see his world melting away. Or just the opposite might be true. Our planet might be on the collision course of a gigantic asteroid. Or our civilization might be crumbling right before our eyes. Yet a sane man in these circumstances might be considered mad by his peers, because they do not see what he sees. The subtitle of Walker Percy’s novel Love in the Ruins even suggests as much: “The adventures of a bad Catholic at a time near the end of the world.” In this novel, society is breaking down, and the deeply flawed hero Dr. Thomas More invents a device called the Ontological Lapsometer which he intends to use to heal the psyche of human kind. In the wrong hands it causes more evil than good. Ironically Dr. More is a psychiatrist who himself has problems with his own psyche, and at the same time, he sees the decay of the world around him.

To use more prosaic language than poetic, we might substitute the phrase “at the decay of society” or “at the collapse of civilization” in place of “at the end of the world.” If we use the word “world” to mean the society or civilization we live in or know, whether it be locally or globally, then we can ask the question, are people really more inclined to want to write a book during the collapse of their civilization?

I have come to believe that more people do want to write a book when their civilization is in decline than when it is not. I am not aware of any quantitative study, but I believe there is anecdotal evidence (or signs) that when an empire or great civilization decays then there is an increased desire among its people to write a book. I’m not sure if there is cause and effect here, but for me, there appears to be a correlation between the end times and the desire to write a book.

An example of a society in decline while attended by an increase in the desire for authorship was when the printing press came to Europe. When typography dislodged the Catholic Church from its monopoly of the published, written word, more people then could become authors writing about topics that the Church might be found lacking. Subjects like medicine, mathematics and astronomy, as well as novels eventually found a demanding audience. The economics of the printing press made it favorable to write on topics the Church may not have been interested in, and also made anti-Church pamphlets and treaties more accessible to the general population. The promulgation of anti-cleric literature certainly hastened the decline of the Church’s influence on the people of Europe.

Protestantism that supplanted Catholicism in England and Northern Europe seems to flourish with the invention of the printing press. That branch of English Protestantism, the Non-conformists, especially the Puritans, saw a flourishing of book publication. The publication of spiritual memoirs like John Bunyan The Pilgrim’s Progress might have set a mould for the English novel form. At first glance, England does not appear to be in decline with this new found love of writing and reading of printed books. On the contrary, it remained a world power until after World War II. Still, I believe, the writing was on the wall, when a major piece of the British Empire was lost to the Americans. The irony was that the founders of the new republic were English Protestants of the Non-conformist ilk, very learned men who loved to write and read thick books. The world that was collapsed was Catholic England, and the new world was Protestant England. America became the great religious experiment of the Dissenters from Protestant England.

Another example may be seen in the corruption and decline of the Chinese civilization under the Qing Dynasty. Much has been written about the reasons for the collapse of Chinese civilization in this period (1644-1911), but mostly in social, economic or political terms. One of the prescient characteristics found in the collapsing Qing Empire, as I see it though, was that the Qing bureaucracy consisted of candidates who had passed exams in classical literature, including books of poems. Their civil service examination system focused on the literary and historical. Topics such as modern science were virtually non-existent in these civil service exams. You might say that Qing bureaucrats were a bunch of poets running the country. Although this does not prove outright that there was an increase in the writing and publishing of books during the Qing Dynasty, there was cultivated an increased impulse to write among a bloated public service. One of the ideals of the Chinese civil service examination system was that it was based on merit; so that the lower class had a chance to move up in society. A trickle-down effect, I suspect, would encourage people in the lower rungs of society to aspire, to prepare, and to compete for a cherished position in the government bureaucracy.

It is also significant that shortly before extensive contact with foreign trade, one of China’s greatest, pre-modern novel The Dream of the Read Chamber was written in this period, first published in manuscript form and then in print. The novel is about the decay of a prominent family which perhaps mirrors the decline of Qing Dynastic China itself. It became the model for modern romance novels and family sagas in China. Another influential, modern novelist, Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing), began writing her novels during the decay of Republican China in the twentieth century. Anecdotally it appears there might have been an uptick in a desire to write poems and novels during the decline of, respectively, Qing Dynastic and Republican China.

In our own time, and Marshall McLuhan is prescient on this, the inventions of the computer and electric networks (the Internet) enable the rise of companies like Amazon that offer the chance for every literate person to publish their own books. There is no financial barrier to entry. Authors can choose to publish their book in an electronic format (ebook) or a traditional print format. The latter format may be traditional, but it is the new technology of digital printing that does not require a writer-publisher to hold a costly inventory of books for sale, but rather a single book can be printed on demand within a reasonable cost.

At the same time, corruption and ruin in the financial world as well as in the political sphere–the collapse of Lehman Brothers, GM bailouts, wars in far-off lands, Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the Senate scandal in Canada, need I say more–are signs that something is not right.

So, at a time when everyone thinks he has a book in him, when everyone encourages everyone else that he can be an author, are we in the twenty-first century then also at the end of the world?

Marshall McLuhan in a nutshell

The title of this posting suggests impossibility so the next best thing is for me to give an overall impression of my reading of Canada’s most recognized English professor, the late Marshall McLuhan (e.g., The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Mechanical Bride, and Understanding Media). Despite his famous phrase “the medium is the message” being first coined in the last title, I find this particular book dry and uninspiring, and my reading of it is spotty, skipping large chunks of it, at the time of this posting.

I see McLuhan as a twentieth century “reincarnation” of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. They both wrote to a readership that was hostile to traditional Christianity. Kierkegaard’s audience was the Lutheran Protestants in Denmark, who in the main, had become embarrassed at the supernatural claims of the Christian faith, and become spiritually dead. McLuhan’s audience was a mostly Protestant one too, as much of the English speaking world was. By the middle of the twentieth century, religion was losing its grip on mainstream society in North America, but certain evangelical Protestant groups managed to hang on. At the time of the writing of The Gutenberg Galaxy, the Roman Catholic Church remained strong in Quebec, but the demise of Catholicism would soon be ushered in by the Quiet Revolution. Although not explicit, McLuhan was taking jabs at a religion that was given birth by the printing press. His books examined the fruits of that religion’s posture of Sola Scriptura–by Scripture alone. That religion is of course Protestant Christianity.

I’ve always been puzzled by Protestants despite my own beliefs having much in common with Protestantism and being baptized in a Protestant church. The birth place of Martin Luther and Protestantism–Germany–also is the birth place of National Socialism–Nazism. The great experiment in building a republic based on principles of liberty, democracy, and freedom of religion, that is America, was conducive to the practice slavery even as its citizens claimed belief in Christ. In the nineteenth century, a Christian Britain initiated wars with China in order to uphold their privilege to sell opium to Chinese citizens. The image of missionaries unloading Bibles at one end of an ocean faring ship and gentlemen overseeing the unloading of wooden crates containing balls of opium at the other end is truly perplexing to me.

Like Kierkegaard, McLuhan took pot shots at the contradictions of an alphabetic based society that professed Christianity. One of his conclusions is that the effects of the medium has as profound an effect, perhaps even more so, on the reader as the content of the medium do. The Christian reader may profess faith in the content of the Bible, but the impact of the medium of the printed book may result in evils that seem to negate the profession of faith.

Although I do not believe there is a direct cause and effect of typographic media on the beliefs and behavior of the reader, rather I believe that the inventions of the alphabet and the printing press introduce tendencies that are magnified through time and technological innovation. McLuhan sums it up in The Gutenberg Galaxy: “Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.”

In the blogging…

Words have lost their meaning.