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Stephen Harper: Wasting Opportunities and Burning Bridges

Stephen Harper recently had the opportunity of a life time. He was the first Prime Minister to speak in front of Israel’s parliament.

I make this post with great caution. I do so because the issue is one that is extremely controversial. Firstly, I’m disappointed in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inability to do the right thing. Canada has been looked at as a country that can help broker peace between Israel and Palestine. Instead he took the opportunity to make it clear who he, and more so his government supports. Telling the Israel people that “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you”. He also knocked critics of the Israeli government, by stating “those who call Israel an apartheid state are exercising a form of Anti-Semitism”.

Being disappointed in Mr. Harper did not surprise me. I’ve become accustom to being disappointed in my Prime Minister. What surprised me is that all three political parties in Canada held firm in their position that a boycott or criticism of Israel is a new version of anti-Semitism. Going so far as to say the rallies and protests held by students and activists over the treatment of the Palestinian people could cause those individuals to be labelled an anti-Semite.

Some students and political activists oppose Israel’s policies and laws surrounding the Palestinian people. A system that is in many ways is a two tiered system based on discrimination and segregation of race. Liberal Member of Parliament Mark Garneau said that, “comparing Israel to an apartheid is divisive”. He may be right, but it doesn’t mean the comparison is completely incorrect. 

Talking about this might not be the most politically safe thing to talk about, in fact the relations between Israel and Palestine are extremely difficult to talk about. However, to lambaste students and activists as anti-Semites because they oppose a government is low brow. Caring about the treatment and living conditions of others does not make you a hateful person. These neo-conservative views attempt to polarize the issue, and put people in boxes. You either support Israel, or you hate Jewish people.

Anti-Semitic’s exist everywhere. They are irrelevant as we allow them to be. We shouldn’t care what racists and assholes think. Validating their views is the first mistake. The second mistake is using Anti-Semitism as a barrier to prevent reasonable and rational discussion about a countries laws. I wanted the leader of my country to leave Israel with a message of hope and possibility. No bridges were built, and opportunities were squandered.

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Chris Kluwe: Unhireable

Photo © Deadspin

Chris Kluwe, former punter for the Minnesota Vikings released an article on the popular Sports News website Deadspin. The article is titled, “I was An NFL Player Until I was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot“. The name Chris Kluwe might ring a bell to some readers. He also wrote a letter to Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Maryland state delegate on the matter of same sex marriage. The article was titled, “They Won’t Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster”.

The recent article is a detailed account of how Chris was unjustly let go of the Vikings based on performance; when he was actually performing consistently with his yearly averages. He mentions in the article that he was being told to sacrifice his own averages for the betterment of the team.

“Chris, we need you to kick it higher and shorter, because our coverage team sucks. We need to force fair catches as much as possible.” I complied, as I had always been taught to put the team before myself.” – Chris Kluwe

I admire Chris for some of what he has tried to do. It is never easy to put yourself out and do what you think is right, especially when it comes to controversial topics like gay marriage. I also respect the fact that Chris waited till The Vikings season was over to release the article. He obviously still cares deeply for his old team and teammates. I don’t disagree with a lot of Chris Kluwe’s politics, however I can understand why he cannot find a job in the NFL, and will likely never again.

“I can still hit the ball 45 yards outside the numbers with good hangtime, and at the tryouts I’ve had this year I’ve gotten praise from the scouts and personnel people on hand, but for whatever reason I cannot find a job.” – Chris Kluwe

It’s not about politics, it’s about behaviour. When a person becomes an outspoken critic of controversial topics it puts his or her employer in an awkward position, especially when they are a public figure. A person is an individual that has the right to express themselves freely, though they also put on a jersey and represent a city, and a team.

Chris Kluwe is a Public Relations nightmare. On his own account he is a “middle of the pack punter”. Punters aren’t top earners in the NFL, nor are they seen as playing a vital role as say a Quarterback, or a Linebacker. Chris Kluwe had baggage, too much for any team to take him on.

Ai Weiwei: The Most Interesting Man in China

Chinese authorities would beg the differ, as they see Ai Weiwei as being one of the most dangerous men in their country. So much so that he has been illegally detained, assaulted by police, and put under constant surveillance. Not because he has made direct threats at the government or its citizens, instead because he has become a symbol for the struggle of human rights in China. Through all the governments coercion they haven’t changed Ai’s tune.

Currently Ai Weiwei has had his passport revoked and cannot leave the country. After being detained for 81 days in 2011 he was released, but with stipulations. During his detention Ai was interrogated daily about his online activities, and had guards by his side at all times – including when he slept and used the bathroom. Part of Ai’s “bail conditions” was that he was “prohibited from giving interviews about his detention, being active on social media, or traveling outside Beijing for one year” (Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry). Above is a link to the documentary entitled Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. I strongly recommend everyone watch this fantastic documentary.

Residents of Toronto and the General Toronto Area (GTA), will be lucky to know that Ai Weiwei’s exhibit According to What? is making it’s only Canadian stop at the AGO in Toronto on August 17th. The exhibit will run until October 27th. This gives residents a couple months to look at some very unique and politically driven pieces of contemporary art.

As the constant struggle for human  rights is being waged in all countries, both democratic and undemocratic; I am often reminded of the stark difference between my country and China, and potentially some of the similarities. The main difference is that I have the freedom and  right to oppose my government openly, without fear of reprisal. It’s that freedom that I am thankful for, as freedom of opinion and expression are at the core of liberty. This freedom does not always act as the barrier that prevents governments from violating personal freedoms and rights, as we are all too well aware of in North America. However, what it does do is hold governments accountable for their actions. This is why people such as Ai have turned to Twitter and Blogging as a means of holding their government accountable, as there is little to no other options. Ai most notably accused the government of having shoddy construction in the province of Sichuan, that lead to 5,212 students dying during an earthquake in 2008. The total loss of lives during the quake was around 90,000. The government refused to release the names of the students who were killed in the quake, stating that it was “confidential information”. Ai launched a citizens investigation to gather a list of the all the names of the students who had died. It was about transparency, and not allowing those children’s lives to be forgotten. Ai created an installation called Remembering, it was made out of nine-thousand children’s backpacks to help represent and remember the students that lost their lives.

The government of China fears social media to be the counter-balance to its oppressive laws and lack of concern for the rights of the individual. That fear drove the government to shut down Ai’s blog. The government of China also subverts any attempt made by any citizen to openly oppose the government, especially when talking about political reformAnyone who engages in this act is seen as an enemy of the state and can be thrown into jail for extended periods of time. It is easy to oppose a government when there are rules and laws to protect you, but in China the risks are more serious – as are the consequences. It is common for people to go missing or end up in jail when they start vocalizing opinions that are contradictory to state policy.

“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.” – Ai Weiwei

Micro-Investments: Transforming Business, Changing Lives

indieSometimes it’s hard to write about ideas and topics you simply don’t give a shit about. I applaud anyone who does this for a living, as it is the equivalent of telling a blues musician to play classical music for eight hours a day. I choose to believe that readers are for the most part aware of skill and passion one puts into their writing. Passion is something that is hard to synthesize, and usually a “smart” reader can tell when a writer is not being genuine.

As I often remind myself, people want quality not quantity – yet, as I try to keep this blog active I am sometimes posed with the challenge of coming up with creative and interesting ideas that readers will enjoy reading, but also that I enjoy writing about.

That said, I am actually really interested in the power and change that micro-investing sites can have on transforming ideas, lives, and history. Sites like indiegogo and kickstarter work to break down the barriers that existed when creative people had great ideas, skill, and ability – but little to no financial support.

Cause let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to convince investors or banks that giving fifty-percent of the profits to charity is a good idea, but companies like Me to We located in Toronto actively practice this philosophy. Other responsible businesses like TOMS are flourishing. TOMS has run a “one for one campaign” since their inception in 2006. The program gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. TOMS sold over 10,000 units during their first year in business. TOMS is now a multimillion dollar company that has donated hundreds of thousands of shoes to children in need, possibly close to the millions at this point. Any person who continues to believe that there is no market for investing in sustainable or responsible businesses simply has their head in the sand.

However, the power for businesses to succeed is no longer completely in the hands of those who are motivated by greed, money, and profit margins. It is now up to the public, who can foster small donations to businesses and ideas they personally believe in or care about. The most beautiful part about sites like kickstarter or indiegogo is that the investors receive something in return for their financial support including involvement in the project, meaning this isn’t charity. This is opportunity in the making.

Canadian Jobs: Our Problem with Understanding Supply and Demand

NowHiringGraphicI’ve recently seen a lot of activity on social media regarding an article posted by the website, CareerCast.ca. The article outlines The best 200 Jobs of 2013. Interestingly enough Newspaper Reporter was pegged as the worst job in 2013. This came as little surprise to me, as wages and the number of jobs related to Print Journalism has been going down for years. Having interned for a local paper several years ago, I know first-hand how rough the Print industry is.

There’s an assumption made that Print Journalism jobs are being replicated elsewhere, mainly into New Media and Social Media. This is false. If you were to add up all the employees at Facebook, Twitter, and Groupon you’re looking at a meager 20,000 employees – yet these companies are valued at over 80 Billion Dollars (Generation Jobless).

I’ve had the experience of running a company Facebook, and Twitter account for a print magazine during a short stint as an Editorial Coordinator. It was never a specific role or job title, as most companies do not have the resources to make that role a permanent position, even if they do why pay someone to do it if you don’t have to? Some big companies do hire a team of Social Media personnel, however most times it is a split role between various other duties.

Most companies are tacking this role onto current employees laundry list of duties – meaning more work is being created, but not necessarily more jobs. Media in general has been transforming for years, as we are seeing individuals create employment opportunities for themselves by creating their own online content. This content is shared openly, and for free. However, the problem with creating your own work through blogging, or video blogging is that only a handful of people actually make enough money at it to be self-sufficient.

Career Cast is not Reward Cast, as it focuses on viability of employment, stress, and work environment. It isn’t about the rewarding nature of working in the Media or Journalism. Career Cast is used by many interested in looking into a career or possibly changing their current one, As an intricate, and main reason people go to school besides getting educated is to find employment. Journalism is a highly admirable profession, but using the criterion of employability, stress, and work environment it is easy to see why being a Newspaper Reporter falls to the bottom of the list.

Here’s the problem, in Canada we don’t track the number of student’s who come out of College or University, and more specifically with what kind of  Diploma or Degree. A documentary featured on CBC called Generation Jobless, outlines our problem with not tracking data related to graduates; “There is no national strategy  that requires Universities to gather that kind of information, and then share it with each other” which makes post-secondary institutions “unresponsive to the labour market” (Generation Jobless). This is important because specific industries are over-saturated, and potentially some such as the trades are under-saturated. It’s about supply and demand.

We don’t have a clue about what the demand is because the government doesn’t provide students with labour market information to tell students what jobs are in demand.

The Canadian government relies on industry lead Sector Councils, which incorporates business, labour and educators. The councils are supported (poorly), on a case by case basis to provide and share information on labour markets. When “people don’t have that information they just make guesses” and these choices can have detrimental affects on that individual and their future (Generation Jobless).  It’s hard to direct your future according to employment when you’re going off of anecdotal information. When you’re conducting research on a case by case basis, you have no idea what the overall picture of the labour market looks like. Having this information could help post-secondary institution’s to increase and decrease the number of programs offered, while helping students better direct their career goals.

It’s a sad state of affairs when students must rely on websites like Career Cast and anecdotal information (that may be incorrect) to help guide them through making tough career choices.

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