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An apology for Stephen Leacock

In today’s world, we would not hesitate to call Stephen Leacock what he was – a violent, racist, woman-hater.   We should be ashamed that Stephen Leacock worked at McGill.   The above two sentences were printed almost exactly one year ago in the McGill Daily, and in what may be a record for the paper, one of them is true.   They are the first and last sentences in the article “Prejudice with a Grin,” and I would like to take a moment, if not to argue with them, then at least to examine them and point out what I believe to be misconceptions or faulty logic in the condemnation of the legacy and entire body of work of an extremely influential, readable, and very funny author.   Stephen Leacock was a conservative, an unapologetic apologist for the British Empire, even a British Imperialist, and, perhaps worst of all to some people, he was old-fashioned in his ways. From this we can, fairly logically, if unfairly, correctly assume that Stephen Leacock was a racist, a misogynist, and an all-around Anglocentric bigot. He was. It is almost entirely irrelevant.   Other statements that are not incorrect, only to no point: Tennyson was a colonialist, Charles Dickens an antisemite, and William Shakespeare, the poor hopeless case, a racist, misogynist danger to himself and others. Writers (and I will go out on a limb here by not using a citation) are judged by their writing. The Ring cycle could have been composed by a machine (as music now is), or found inscribed by coincidence in the pattern of watermarks on a cave ceiling, but it wasn’t. It was written by Wagner, a horrific brute of a racist proto-Nazi no one in their right mind would want to have dinner with, living or dead.… Read More

PGSS Food Crawl 2015: Any Epicurean Sunday

On a bright Sunday morning, a group of graduate students made their way around the Plateau inches by inches, to five different restaurants as part of the Food Crawl organized by Post Graduate Student Society (PGSS) of McGill. Now, this isn’t comparing a Sunday morning food crawl to an Al Pacino-esque game of football. However, the gluttonous degustation that occurred was done with such a motivation that I am sure people will be back for more. This is definitely an experience that I highly recommend for any food lover. Any person that is new to Montreal should expand their culinary horizons, as this is the perfect city in North America to do so.   The first stop on this infamous food crawl was Cacao 70. What awaited us there was a waffle with cream, a marshmallow a strawberry and all that drizzled in chocolate. It was quite a sweet start but a fantastic way to kick off the adventure. For any who crave chocolates and pancakes, this place is the place to be downtown. It is a refreshing comforting experience that any student would crave. For all living in the McGill Ghetto this place is on Parc and so only a couple of minutes walk which makes comfort also that much closer. I would recommend giving this one a try that you will never regret.   The second stop was Lola Rosa on Parc Avenue. The walk on the way there burnt off all the calories from Cacao 70. Our long march took about a quarter of an hour. Once at Lola Rosa a nice and very refreshing glass of homemade Iced Tea awaited us.  Our little treat also included a small portion of chilli to go, which was tasty, and a very healthy change. Lola Rosa is a fully… Read More

The McGill Daily: Lazy Ideology

  At any given moment, I could subscribe myself to any one of the following three statements:       - Racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and a dozen other unsavoury isms remain far too prevalent in Canadian society.   - A gay black woman living in Mile End should enjoy rights equal to that of a straight white man living in Westmount.   - The West has committed war crimes on six continents, has supported despicable regimes on an equal number, and has more than its fair share of sins to atone for. And yet none of these statements are ones that I would ever be tempted to preface with “As the McGill Daily has recently made apparent to me…” or “The Daily’s editors appear to be the only people on campus who know that…”. The thing is, while the Daily’s entire editorial staff may still be reeling from the realization that the West isn’t all flowers and gumdrops, many of us have been disillusioned of this notion for long enough that it has ceased to dominate every single one of our thought processes. Most of us have long since acknowledged that Canada isn’t some sort of multicultural utopia, that racism is still far too commonplace, and that the peoples of the Middle East and Africa are the victims of callous and corrupt Western statecraft— and we have acknowledged all these things without reaching the conclusion that the playing field ought to be levelled by pulling groups down. A conclusion which, contra-Daily, it is quite possible to hold without somehow hating minorities. I’ve been at McGill for two years now, and though I’ve long since accepted that Daily articles will always be a great deal more difficult to read than they were to write, I still cannot help but find… Read More

Free Speech & Anti-Bullying

The old class warrior Leon Trotsky famously noted that “You have not have an interest in the dialectic, but the dialectic has an interest in you.” In social-media speak, he was saying there’s no escaping the mission creep of people who want into your life. That includes your right to dissent from the accepted norms of expression. Never before has that hard-won freedom to aggravate been under fiercer assault than in recent months. Witness, the well-meaning masses extolling the value of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. But whether the marchers know it or not, they are running smack into their own anti-bullying campaigns in the Western world. A society that ultimately believes in the right to insult or criticize anyone stands athwart the road being paved by anti-bullying advocates. Put simply, the democratic notion of untrammelled free speech could prove incompatible with protecting the hurt feelings of the hurt and impressionable. Anti-bullying advocates seek to ban or even criminalize “hurt speech”. It’s a noble goal until it encounters reality in the voracious maw of online criticism. The recent example at Dalhousie University of dentistry students being sanctioned and possibly expelled for indulging Animal House sexual comments posted on a private Facebook page serves as a prototype of this challenge to offensive speech. Even in dentistry, the sniping of a random few crass classmates should be irrelevant to true happiness and success. Yet society has adopted the notion that we must be loved by one and all— lest we be judged a failure. Steeped in the dogma of victimhood, today’s youth is in a perpetual sense of torment over the online opinions of people who are largely immaterial to them. The engineering of how to protect young people—and their elders— from hurtful comment was cultivated by… Read More

Our Rights are Violated

Results of the vote on BDS at Concordia University were revealed on 05 DEC as follows: YES: 1276; NO: 1067; Abstain: 237 Supporters of BDS at Concordia University claim to stand up for human rights and denounce those who violate them, but what about my human rights? The answer is clear: they have been violated. Tension is already wide-spread on Concordia’s campus. Hatred is being diffused on social media by active members of the ASFA, specifically by one particular individual who has taken the liberty to personally attack members who stood against the BDS movement on campus. The VP academic of SOPHIA (philosophy students association) has explicitly taken hateful, offensive and vulgar measures violating the rights of the “No to BDS” campaign, through false and severe accusations. The VP publicly disclosed the names of the leaders of the “No to BDS” campaign, in addition to sharing their personal pictures, without their consent. Moreover, the VP made hateful comments asserting that, “quite frankly you are pro-Apartheid supporters”, accusing the members of the “no” campaign of being “very firmly and publicly racists”. This representative added that, “what you fail to understand is that you aren't being singled out because you are Jewish, or even because you believe so fiercely in the state of Israel, but because you support apartheid and managed to twist your sadistic idea of killing Muslims into a concern of academia”. The VP concluded the statement by claiming that the “no” committee is “being singled out as racist”, saying that, “this is hilarious, because it saves me a lot of work”. I was distraught reading through these allegations and through these defamatory comments, which affect the reputations of the members of the “no committee”. The idea of having such an individual in power is sickening. More upsetting is the… Read More

‘I’m going to continue to hate you’ says BDS activist

Social media have their pros and cons. The Twitter hashtag is definitely a “pro.” A hashtag can instantly convey a world of meaning to millions of people. I offer for consideration #JewHatePrivilege. It encapsulates the reality that, while expressed hatred for any minority identity groups is normally considered repulsive, and even subject to punitive measures, expression of hatred for Jews is an anomaly. It is not only permitted, it is virtually protected speech. Actually, #JewHatePrivilege is not specific enough, because the privilege takes two distinct forms. There is #MuslimJewHatePrivilege and there is #WesternJewHatePrivilege. We saw an example of #MuslimJewHatePrivilege in demonstrations this summer throughout Europe, in which Muslims screamed Judeophobic curses, like “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” and “Kill the Jews,” at which nobody batted an eye (Indeed, it is customary in Europe for police to blatantly ignore incitement to violence against Jews, but to arrest anyone sporting an Israeli flag, in order to prevent riots they know they cannot contain). We saw it in Palestinians’ joyful street demonstrations following the recent massacre of Jews at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue. And we saw it early this month in Khalil Attieh, vice-chair of Jordan’s Parliament, burning an Israeli flag in parliament and boasting of his hatred for Jews: “Hating the Jews is a great honor for me.” Jordan is the closest thing Israel has to a “friend” in the region, and yet a high official in its government spews forth hatred at least equivalent to the exterminationist Nazi view of Jews as vermin. Nobody comments, because Muslims, from the lowliest ignoramus to the highest educated elites have #MuslimJewHatePrivilege. In the West one is not permitted to say, “I hate Jews”; one is only permitted to say, “I hate Israel.” One is not permitted to say, “Kill the Jews”; one… Read More
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