Sunday, January 23, 2011

the palestine papers

You don't need to wait until morning to get 'em while they're fresh off the press.

I got an instant message via facebook from a friend, because that is the world we appear to be living in today, about AlJazeera's release of the "Palestine Papers". Nearly 1,700 documents of inter-negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

To be released over the next few days...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Last night, a couple of comrades came over, decided to stay a night as they were making their way to Montreal. Arriving late, I had dinner made and ready to eat, the wine opened, breathing, and sipping on a little of it myself. After dinner, we busted out Monopoly!, a game most everyone enjoys (except myself.) Over rolling dice and mortgaged homes, we talked about more important things like what the couple planned to do in Montreal, where they were staying, when they were coming back. They reminded us that this trip was not for business or pleasure, but necessity. They were headed east in search of something: semi-privatized healthcare.

The husband of the pair is a British citizen married to a Canadian. He has been having knee problems since their engagement, just over a year ago, and surgery after surgery, he still walks with crutches. Residing in Ontario has been relatively kind to the couple, except when it came down to medical attention. Because Ontario is on a public system, the husband cannot receive knee-surgery as he does not have an OHIP card. Instead, because healthcare is a provincial jurisdiction, he and his wife have to travel to Montreal, where, despite being a staunchly socialist province, it has private facilities to perform operations.

Now, I know it's dangerous to say, but it's just something to think about. Personally, I think universal healthcare should be accessible to everyone, no matter his or her income, nationality, beliefs, etc. If you have doctors around, someone's health should not come down to the petty details of tax-brackets and insurance payments. That being said, I know it is not the reality of things.

I find it irritating that, as Canadians, we take pride in our healthcare system -- we proudly proclaim, no one has to pay to see a doctor! Yet, we discriminate upon those that, not only can pay, but need to pay because they do not have Canadian citizenry. What is also frustrating is the bureaucracy of citizenship in this country. It is confusing and extensive. It has been close to a year that this couple has been married and the husband is still "going through the process". I have many migrating friends that have/had been in Canada for close to 15 years and were still considered landed-immigrants.

Having a coffee this morning at the Brazilian Bakery in Little Portugal, we got to talking about the diversity that Toronto offers, especially now that the World Cup is happening. The husband of the couple asked how many different cultures there are in the city, to which my answer was: 285, a random number I picked from the tip of my brain. The point is, there are a lot. It's what defines Toronto and builds its identity, makes it the most culturally beautiful place in the world.

And then, I think about the government and its lackadaisical approach to addressing immigration issues and the difficulty some must face in receiving healthcare. It seems as though politics has shifted from the people to the material -- essentially, the economy. I feel like political platforms used to be built upon core issues, deep-seeded problems that needed to be uprooted and changed. Right now, the focus is on the G20 and the harmonized sales tax (HST), two very superficial and fleeting issues when it comes to the bigger picture. These two controversies are minute, little bumps in the road to the progress of humanity, but are given a lot of attention because it distracts people from pervasive problems, like immigrants' access to necessary healthcare.

Like crows to a silver-spoon, we are caught up in the shininess of it all.

Although superficial developments are interesting to watch -- like quarreling lovers in the street -- we should maintain focus: to change things for the better, not for the instant. Rallying and protesting is good to get a message out there, some publicity to a voice, and, perhaps, to coerce a quick executive decision, but then what?

In reality, change is, and should be, a slow process. It's something that should not happen in an instant. Taking the time to enact change, through letters or secret meetings over monopoly or inspiring one another or creating contesting subject matter, is worth the effort.

However, the youth live in a time of "now", demanding for things to happen instantly. For example, when we need to find out information, we Google or Wikipedia it.

We require immediate satisfaction, yet we are creatures that are never sated.

Personally, satisfaction is a superficial sentiment. One can be satisfied with the way things are, but what about striving for something greater? This "greater" thing may not be realized in our lifetime, or ever, but one can still enjoy the pursuit of it, no? We may not ever see accessible, universal healthcare in the province of Ontario, but wouldn't it be nice if our great-grandchildren could?

Such were my thoughts over our cordial game of Monopoly!, the thoughts that may have distracted me from winning, made me the first one out. Either that or I am just a bad business owner. Probably the latter. Doesn't matter, there are other things on my mind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BAFICI: Jaffa, The Orange´s Clockwork

Despite the witty-title, this documentary about the demolition and evolution of the Jaffa Oranges in Palestine/Israel is heart-wrenching. I don´t know if it was using the orange-business as the symbolic/literal axis for dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis or whether it was the old, Palestinian orchard mechanic that began to weep in his interview, but this doc was simply powerful.

Most documentaries following the Middle-Eastern (referred to as the Oriental conflict in the film) have become cliché: Yes, we know about 1948, Zionism, atrocities, extermination, suicide-bombings, etc. These occurrences are devastating to the soul, but people stop paying attention to things that are on repeat. Jaffa, however, told a different side of the story.

It started with scenes of prosperous orange-orchards where Jews and Muslims worked side-by-side cultivating some of the most delicious citrus fruit in the World -- Queen Victoria could attest to it with her order of 3 boxes. After 1948, the life in Jaffa changed. With the Zionist Exodus came an inundation of Europeans, reclaiming land and orchards that had been owned and operated, by Muslims and Jews, for decades. Since the rise in the population, the port-town´s water supply could no longer support keep the people and the oranges hydrated. Most of the groves were levelled.

¨You just don´t do that to a land that you love,¨ said a Palestinian historian and writer.

And so it goes for many living in the divided and occupied territories. It´s something that must be seen with our own eyes to understand the devastating effects the occupation has had.

Not only was the film incredible and informative, the situation was surreal. It was being screened at the Abasto Shopping Centre, in the Jewish-barrio called Almagro in Buenos Aires. Over-generalizing, I thought there might be some scoffing, despite the films balance of Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals discussing the issue. Instead, at the end of the film, there was a round of applause.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Watching X-Men: The Last Stand, I got very aggravated with the character Rogue. As a kid, growing up, she was my favourite. I wanted to be her: to have red-hair, to be able to fly, to absorb mutants´powers, to have her boyfriend (the Frenchie named Gambit), etc. She was a very strong character, torn by her past, frustrated by her present (as she could not touch anybody) and terrified of her future. She was tough on the outside, but tender on the inside. Hm, interesting.

Nevertheless, the third movie to the X-men trilogy was a disappointment in that Rogue, who from the get-go was poorly slated, chose the have a procedure so that she would lose her mutant power. I understand why her character did that -- everyone just wants to be loved -- but, really? At such a young age? Maybe Bobby would up and leave her for Kitty, leaving Rogue alone anyways.

It seems as though normalcy is what some people strive for today. Perhaps it´s because there are just too many people in the world for each one to be extraordinary. In the end, I guess what appears as normalcy is just that, superficial.

To me, every person I have ever met has had something extra-ordinary about them. Although some people are deceived, thrown off, by the appearance of things, what lies beneath is that amazing human potential at greatness. I look at many of my friends and think, they are just so wonderful. Even strangers or new acquaintances who have a slight quirk fascinate me. Although we all look alike, for the most part, want to belong to a common group, for the most part, as individuals we are so unique.

I believe that more and more people are beginning to wake up to this reality. Now, what we must consider, is how to make each individual work within a society or community. I do not believe that the North American independent society is a bad thing. Great things have developed and flourished there. However, I do believe that we can combine forces and thoughts with other societies, to learn from, on amore holistic level.

For instance, here in Buenos Aires, I have met extra-ordinary people, however they maintain their sociality (is that a word?). They greet one another with besos on the cheek, they have coffee all afternoon with family, stand in circles and sip mate with friends. The strangest thing I saw at a beach was the way that the families set-up their chairs and blankets. In North America, everyone points their blankets and chairs either towards the water or the sun. In Latin America, they form circles so that they can sit and have conversations all day long. Bizarre, but refreshing.

As I rant and nearly forget where I was going with this, my point is that we can still embrace our differences within and look for those who will accept us back. We are humans and need constant love and attention from others. We need a community because we are social creatures. We are social creatures because we are unique individuals who contribute unique gifts to a group. Normalcy should not be the answer. Pretending you are something you not should not even cross your mind. We shouldn´t try to fix ourselves to be accepted in the opinions of others. If you are everything you want to be, your group will find you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

evolving ideas: private property

The most important part of philosophy is to put it into practice. This was one of Marx´s biggest criticisms of his inspiration, Hegel. Hegel lived in the mind, in logic, whereas Marx understood that humans are sensient beings who actualize themselves as a species by experiencing and doing things (different from labouring at things). Thus, he took Hegels Idea and evolved it into his own formulation: an Ideation of a universal man, the proletariat, a society of communism. As a result, Marx is followed more than any other Hegelian-philosopher. Obviously.

Howevever, my problem with philosophy, an ideology in fact, is devotion. Although I am a firm supporter, more like understander, of the Marxist Idea, much of the the components of Marxist thought does not apply today. The times have changed -- so must we.

Marx´s ideas on labour and property are outdated. What might have been applicable 150 years ago is no longer relevant. Instead, we need to take these ideas, change them and make them adapt to our situation.

Let´s take private property. Much of the arguments against private property are relevant for a time where men were subjected and enslaved as pieces of property themselves. Although I have no doubts that some sort of secretive-serf servitude still exists, at times private property can save your livelihood. Take for example the First-Nations´ Land Rights or the Northern-Canadian disputed land claims. In both cases, not only is the State trying to breach contractual agreements, but, with help from multinational corporate interests, also natural-being agreements. Although I am not a devoted fan of Locke, his principles of private property are dead-on.

If you live on the land and work the land to support yourself and your family, what gives the government or business the right to come in and take it away? The most important part of Locke´s idea is the working of land as how one sees fit. It produces a means for one´s self and one´s family, whether you have a small vegetable patch or a corner-store, that land is being worked by the owner so that the owner may live and provide for his or her family.

In today´s society, despite my dreamy hopes of a world where everyone holds hands and shares, the exchange of goods and services is a necessity. Thus, one who grows vegetables on his land should have the right to exchange, or sell, it to the other man working his corner store. The existence of exchange, usually performed through money, is a modern reality. So, for now, property is a reality.

Until we reach that utopia, or eutopia, an indivdual´s property must be protected. [The word ¨individual¨ is highlighted because property should be the right of man, not the right of conglomerates and most certainly not the right of government.] Once an individual enters into the private- (business) or public- (government) sphere, where he or she must oversee other people´s lives and jobs, his or her right to property should only exist in his or her home, not through or where he or she works. The business and government, as a representative of a group with hidden interests, should have no claim to an individual´s property.

Currently, people are being forced -- physically, mentally, financially -- from their homes as a result of disputed State and Corporation land claims. It is for this reason that First Nations protest on the 400-highways, why Caledonia is such a controversial issue, why the people in Parry Sound and Muskoka region are forced from their homes that have been passed down from generations due to rising land-taxes (because the government re-values these families´property according to business development).

In the end, all I am trying to say is that, right now, my dear Marx, an individual needs his or her property as a safe-haven from economic enslavement. Everyone needs a place to call home. Interesting research has pointed out that the homeless who have found a home, a roof over their heads, become better adjusted and are able to become financially independent. They become individuals.

Even Marx believed that society can only function if people are able to be themselves, to be individuals. Therefore, with the rich getting richer, and the State becoming more powerful, and these two forces combining to run humanity into the ground, private property is a necessity. Hopefully, in a better future, things will change and private property will adapt, evolve, into people joining hands and sharing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

recommended reading

As an addict of many things there is only one man who has been able to leave me satisfied with 10-page doses at a time: Marx. Obviously.

There is something in the way he writes (although I am aware that it is an English-translation) that stirs the embers in my core and make me want to end something he started over a hundred-and-fifty years ago.

Recently, I have dabbling in his Manuscripts on Economy and Philosophy, of which one of the chapters is called, you guessed it again, Money. Although I find the literature fascinating, it is a complex, interwoven, Hegelian-based dialectic that is hard to reinterpret onto paper (or a computer screen). It deals with man being alienated away from his product due to laborious hours as he is always in the pursuit to obtain another man's product. Unfortunately, my writing is not as concise and organized as Marx's philosophical, yet practical, prose.

Thus, I recommend the read for those who are interested in feeling better about working part-time, or feel like there is more to life than putting in 50+ hours of work a week in a job you hate. It truly is enlightening.