The Tale of Two News Stories
Original Post – October 2013: A couple of years ago, I enjoyed a lovely chat over coffee with a politician talking about current events when she asked me; “Do you want to go into politics?” To which I replied with an immediate and resounding “No!”. Come on, an art model turned politician? Yeah right! Those people will eat me up, spit me out and use my bones to pick their teeth. People like me don’t belong in the political sphere. It would be one scandalous news story after another where instead of listening to what I am saying and the ideas I’d be bringing forth, my character would be highly scrutinized and I would be wasting my time defending myself against one character assassination after another. I mean, look what they did to Belinda Stronach and she comes from good pedigree. Nobody looks good under so close of a microscope. Which brings me to my next point.
Spirituality in Politics
There are a lot of issues in the news and it is hard to keep track of all of them. Yet lately it has come to my attention that we all are in the business of politics, each and every one of us, because this country is ours and we should not let our destiny be guided by those elite few in power. President Eisenhower was quoted stating that: “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”
“Politics: Poli” a Latin word meaning “many” and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”.”
~ Robin Williams (R.I.P.)
Marianne Williamson made a speech at the Aspen Institute on Spirituality in Politics, she says “The Latin root of the word ‘politics’ means ‘of the people.’ Politics is about something bigger than electoral politics…” She uses the example of a house full of roommates. Each roommate has their own lives and does their own thing. But every once in a while they need to get together to discuss “household” issues. The roof needs fixing, taking out the garbage, winterize the windows, fix the chimney, the leaky sink, mowing the lawn and so on. Together the roommates decide on how to handle the “household” chores and tasks. Well, our country is our “house” and every province/territory, city, village, town, neighborhood, and every household – well, we are all roommates and every couple of years we get together, through the electoral process, to discuss how our household should be governed. It is the same theory for every country on this planet and as a human race we are seriously breaking some “household rules” which is resulting in the ecological crisis that we are now facing.
Therefore we need to pay attention to what our governments are doing and the decisions they are making to ensure that these decisions are for the betterment of all people and the environment that we live in. We must pay attention to what the media feeds to us as news stories, do our own research, become self aware by acquiring the knowledge to make better decisions which determines quality of life not only for ourselves but also for our children and the generations that come after them. I mean how much do we really care about the personal lives of certain figure heads, I mean it’s nice to know what motivates an individual to do something whether it was to create a piece of art, music, a piece of literature or politics but we are so focused on various scandals that we tend to miss larger issues and the substance that they bring to the table. (i.e. Rob Ford, the Clintons, Belinda Stronach – just throwing out a few names at the top of my head – and countless of others, I mean like, really? Do we really need to hear this gossip? And if so, for how long?
To illustrate my point, let me give you an example of two news stories that shared the same time-line in the news and no I’m not talking about Rob Ford although I suspect his story came out on top among all the news stories as it was reported around the world. In any case here’s the two stories that I chose and I will try to water it down as much as possible:
News Story #1 – Quebec Charter of Values
Upon first hearing of Quebec’s Charter of Values, it made me stand up and cheer for the gutsy move on the part of Pauline Marois and hew crew – finally we are moving towards having secular legislation implemented. I felt this way because for me it was a simple matter of separation of church and state and freedom from religion in politics and civil service. I’ve always been a strong supporter of having our laws show more of a humanist philosophy and this was a strong step in the right direction.
Houda-Pepin and Maria Mourani
However upon closer examination and reading various arguments on the pros and cons of the this piece of legislation, well I must say that I’ve adjusted my perspective which fits more in line with Ex-Liberal MP Houda-Pépin, the only Muslim in the National Assembly, who left her party to sit as an independent because of irreconcilable differences with Philippe Couillard’s caucus over its stand. She supports imposing a secular dress code only on those in positions of legal authority, like judges and police officers.
And then there was Bloc MP Maria Mourani, who was ousted from her caucus because of her views on the Charter. Mourani was the only elected female Bloc member representing a Montreal federal riding and one of the most prominent ethnic members of the Quebec sovereigntist movement. In a Huffington article it explained that, “Ms. Mourani, and her family, originally from Lebanon, chose Quebec over France, because of Quebec’s alleged greater tolerance of minorities. Mourani astutely argued on the fact that Marois was using France’s own secularism model as a model for Quebec’s Charter of Values, would be a disaster for Quebec because France had a terrible record of integrating immigrants into French society.”
In a CBC radio report, Mourani, “claimed that upon arrival in Quebec, she truly wanted to integrate into Quebec society, so she joined the Quebec sovereigntist movement. She then spent many years as an active volunteer in the provincial Parti Quebecois and the federal Bloc Quebecois. And then as an elected member of the BQ, promoting the Quebec independence movement was open to and inclusive of immigrants. Mourni articulately attacked the proposed Charter of Quebec Values as a calculated election-driven strategy for votes at the cost of the defense of basic human rights.”
I understand Mourani’s point of view and upon closer examination I realized that the inspiration behind the proposed Charter did not sit right with me as well. If some rules were made about dress codes, Houda-Pépin’s suggestion about imposing a secular dress code only on those in positions of legal authority, like judges and police officers seems more acceptable than what was being proposed. The Quebec Charter of Values certainly set off a flurry of debates with in the media with everyone weighing in with their own perspectives and points of view.
For example, Janette Bertrand, a prominent public figure in Quebec media and journalism who is also known for activism and frank opinions on social issues were just one of many who decided to add their voice to the discussion. She wrote a letter in support of the Quebec Charter of Values that was co-signed by 20 women who collectively called themselves the Janettes – a reference to the Yvettes movement that played a game-changing role during the 1980 Quebec Referendum.
Having just finished my first year in Women’s Studies I understood what they were trying to say when they tried to defend the Charter but somehow it sounded a little patronizing and so it was highly criticized. As ardent feminists they explained; “We (and the women before us) didn’t fight for feminism, so these Muslims would reverse all the progress that has been made, you see!…I feel so uncomfortable when I see them being manipulated, I want to reach out my hand and tell them not to be afraid.”
Oh, those “white feminists” strikes again!
In a Huffington Post article, the author plainly states (almost in disgust) that “…a group of all-white, all-French speaking, predominantly all Judeo/Catholic group of women pretending to school all other women on feminism reeks so badly of white privilege and patronizing “I know better than you” attitudes, they might have second-guessed their impulse to write and publish such a letter.” The author continues to write a letter addressed to the Janettes for which I’ll paraphrase, for it is well written:
You completely missed the mark. Feminism is first and foremost about choice. The choice to live free of religion. The choice to live with religion. You don’t get to treat a woman who made a different choice from you as “crazy” and “manipulated.” Other ways of life are not just pale imitations of your own. Not everyone aspires to live their lives in the exact same way you do, and you expressing discomfort at that doesn’t reveal your empathy; only your intolerance and ignorance.
What diminishes Quebec women’s emancipation is a Charter that aims to prevent veiled women from working in hospitals and schools! Such a restrictive step backwards devalues everything the feminist movement in this province has worked so hard for: the choice for women to do as they please.
Let’s make one thing clear. You, dear Janettes, are not acting on behalf of Quebec women. You’re acting on behalf of yourselves. As a Quebec feminist, I resent the fact that you — and your sanctified intolerance and prejudice — pretend to represent me. You don’t. ..Are we really all that naïve in believing that such superficial changes would succeed in bringing about the lasting kind of gender equality we aspire to?
All women are limited in one way or another and some worse than others based on their income, their religion, and their race. While Quebec may be a great place to be a woman, it isn’t free of sexism, racism, and gender inequality. Serious issues still plague us.
So while I appreciate that the Janettes took a break from solving those problems to extend a hand and guide the ones who just don’t know any better, I’d rather they didn’t A bunch of highly-privileged white women pretending to know what is right for a bunch of women from different cultures, nationalities and religion is just as arrogant and misplaced as an all-male panel on a commission on the status of women. How do they even know what they’re talking about?…
Western feminists who state that they want to get rid of the veil and the niqab are really only openly engaging in acts of Islamophobia, but they don’t even see it, because Western white privilege allows people to be blind to the discrimination that Western feminists unintentionally perpetrate against women of color and other religions. It’s really that obvious, once your eyes have been opened to it.
Has the PQ’s Charter actually accomplished what it set out to do before even becoming law? Have we reached the point where we’re no longer focused on the economy and the budget and the party’s well-documented failure on these fronts, yet are spending time involved in knee-jerk, emotional spats over identity and religion?…”
Part Two: A Tale of Two News Stories