Monday, September 29, 2008

Vote, Damn You!

So, it's that time of... not quite four years again, and we've been asked to paddle our butts down to a polling office and cast our votes.

The available choices are something that I've been known to whine about. But the actual act of voting has always figured fairly high upon my list of priorities. It's not like it takes a lot of effort or anything... and when it comes down to it, it does make a difference... (a small part of a big difference?).

Once upon a time, back when I was ages 12 through to 18, I was so raring to vote... blame Mike Harris, the premier of Ontario for the larger part of the '90s. All's I really remember was: I was a gallery brat. Therefore, I knew the pains of the art communities during those years. The no-funding deals. Or, you know, the basic slash funding, programs.

But there was more. I remember my mom pointing out posters (they really made no difference in our small Ultra-Con towns) that stated: "Minimum wage $6.75, Monthly welfare payments $695, Mike Harris' political advisors' hourly wage $495". Or, you know, something along those lines. I might have forgotten the specific numbers by now (I think I have, because I remember the hourly wage being higher than the monthly welfare rate). Point is, at that age, I was already indignant and angry about PC Politics.

Oh, yeah, and to add salt to that wound... there was also that minor incident of the new curriculum. And the glorious day that we went to listen to Nelson Mandela speak at the SkyDome (now known horrendously as the "Roger's Centre"), and Harris came out to speak first. And a SkyDome full of angry 11 and 12 year old children booing him.

Long story short: while most of my friends were more into their Nintendo systems, I was so ready to cast my vote. I actually spent the 14-16 years reading books about Suffragettes (probably one of the reasons that people called me that dirty ol' f-word, you know... feminist). In Highschool Civics class (the bullshit "understanding the political system" class that Harris' new curriculum added) I railed against the unjust laws that required me to be 18 before I could vote - 16 was more than mature enough! (Of course, my classmates thought I was an utter nerd, and the teacher kind of hated me).

The point of this long, rambling story is that voting is a responsibility I feel is very, very, very important. And even if you're voting for the dirty Con Party and their head corporate robot Harper (can you tell I'm biased in favour of the the lefties?) the point is, you're voting. And that is important.

The sad thing is that I feel like most people in my generation are still no more interested in being involved than they were in highschool. I know numerous young, university educated people who refuse to vote because: "Oh, it just doesn't matter." "What has the government ever done for me?" and "My guy never wins." And we wonder why there are so few young people trusted in government. A mixture of laziness, apathy and plain old ignorance allows so many people to "justify" why they just shouldn't vote. One friend told me that she creates change through other actions. But activism, however important, shouldn't be constantly necessary. Instead, why not just try to elect a responsible government that responds to its populous? Hell, what's a walk to the polling office compared to having to organise protests or incite the revolutionary mob?

I'm sick of people who go on and on about how the world is going to shit and then, if you ask them if they voted, they say "Oh, well, my vote doesn't count for much". No, it doesn't count for much if you don't use it. It'll count for a hell of a lot more if you were to just use your vote.

I think that one of the reasons that the advertisements for the respective parties (*cough* Conservatives) have gotten so completely trashy (ie. no political message, just slamming the other guy, like, you know, the "Gamble on Dion" series?) is because people are just shutting off to actual issues. We don't want to talk about, don't want to deal with it, and don't want to take responsibility of it.

And don't even get me started on how the American Election '08 is going.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Arts Funding and the Election

So, I'm well aware that art funding is not the headlining "issue" for this year's election; in fact, usually the only people who really care about arts funding are... you got it... artists.

I was sent this video via my email - it is the husband of a friend talking there.

I just wanted to post this because it raises a reasonably good point.

If you can't watch it, it's just saying that Harper's not a big fan of arts funding. (Are you surprised?)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Compromising Principles, Part II

This past summer, I got engaged.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised by this turn of events. Pleasantly, of course, as I love my partner, but still the decision to get married and the weight it carries left me with some complex issues.

For one, I hadn't seen myself as the marrying type. I, in fact, was looking forward to a life of living in sin. I'm actually kind of surprised about how linear and modernly traditional my life looks on paper (or blog). Let's see-->went to university right out of high school (albeit there are lots of cracks in that story), finished university, got engaged shortly thereafter. A little more heteronormative than I anticipated. But of course, our marriage is the personal story of me and my partner, and we both know our lives are more complicated than that.

I suppose my biggest issue is what marriage has historically meant and the roles that it casts out whether we notice them or not. This is problematic for someone trying to juggle her feminist principles with an institution that is not only visibly flailing, but also tied to repressive notions of property and moral norms. I mean, how much transformation can we really make within an age-old institution if the society we live in doesn't support our notions of our relationship?

I am thinking though, that my partner and I don't really care. Our marriage for him just solidifies our commitment to each other for as long as we can maintain it. It's not the commitment part about our marriage that bothers me. Just the way that marriages are constructed as an institution that worries me so.

What was troubling me as well was whether I felt like I could balance the pressure of family traditions, such as a big wedding fiasco, getting married in a church I don't believe in, etc, etc, with what would be an acceptable celebration for us. I don't want the fuss, I don't want people to not come to our wedding because they are broke, I don't want to be married by a priest, and I don't want to wear white.

I have to admit, though, if I can get my partner to cave into having a Beetlejuice wedding,that would be pretty damned awesome. Can you imagine, if I could get a hold of Lydia's dress?!

Ah yes, and the rings. I really didn't want to support this idea of my partner's success in capitalism and masculinity being reflected in the ring that I wore. Nor did I want to feel like a spoken-for piece of property. Or support the exploitation of diamond-miners.

Sigh. And I failed. My partner really wanted to get a ring. It was important to him, and I do like rings, so how could I deny it? I do love my ring that we chose together, because it's from him. And let's face it, it's a tasteful and pretty piece of jewelry. However, we felt just awful ring shopping. The whole enterprise was depressing with the expectation of expense, and the commodification of love through diamond rings. We finally found something that wasn't ridiculous (to us anyway) in expense and ostentation. As well, in my own way to subvert the engagement industries gender norms about what rings signify, I also bought a ring for my partner. I am not just engaged to him, but he is engaged to me. I realize that in a way I'm still supporting the capitalist end of the engagement market by buying him a ring as well, but our rings have become quite significant to us over these summer months and I won't deny their symbolic power to our individual union.

Though when I wear my ring I am conscious of the developmental implications that a diamond bears with it (even though in Canada, supposedly one cannot sell diamonds unless they are conflict-free--a term which is narrowly defined, and hard to guarantee). I think part of my compromises and negotiations with this whole thing has been an important exercise in awareness and consciousness. When I look at my ring, I will not forget the many things it symbolizes.

And I will not forget the possibilities of institutional transformation, even if it is just on a personal level.

When I had gotten engaged, since the boy and I are planning for a long-term engagement, I decided I didn't want to make a big deal out of it so I just changed my relationship status on Facebook. I had to work the next day, at a restaurant that is gay-friendly and active in Toronto's LGBTQ community. I figured, what did anyone care there that the straight girl is getting married?

Ah, the importance of legal battles such as the right to wed. When I walked in, everyone hugged me and jumped for joy and just made me realize that happiness is what is at the bottom here. It reminded me about the ability for society to change, to maneuver our own meanings and significances, even when we have to counterbalance them with old expectations and traditions.

I think though, that the funniest story that came out of this turn of events, is that both our sets of parents, when we announced our engagement, were firstly and openly relieved that we weren't pregnant...HA!