Harper choosing pandering over policy

The notion that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar seems to have informed Stephen Harper’s latest masterplan for trapping Canadian voters. The plan’s goal, according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, is to increase the party’s links with religious and ethnic minorities in Canada through an “ethnic outreach team,” which will presumably be supplying the honey.

The fly-honey analogy is particularly fitting to Harper’s attempt at reaching out to “ethnic voters.” The prime minister’s team sent out “happy new year” greeting cards to the Thornhill Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday in which apples dipped in honey symbolize the sweetness of the coming year. This tactic is in line with the team’s strategy, which consists of targeted, one-on-one meetings at “major ethnic events,” and the creation of a large database of new Canadians.

But as any child knows, too many sweets can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and the same is true of Harper’s ethnic outreach campaign, for two reasons. First, because it is inherently discriminatory, and second, because it distracts voters from core issues by appealing to their feelings.

One obvious problem with the campaign is that it is inherently discriminatory. The fact that there is a subcommittee aimed specifically at the “ethnics” in Canadian society betrays the Conservative Party’s belief that there are Canadians and then there are “ethnic Canadians,” suggesting that Jews and other minorities have not really integrated into the country, which is far from the case.

Furthermore, by appealing to the specific needs of a minority group rather than the collective needs of the country, the ethnic outreach campaign ignores the federal government’s reason for existence: the betterment of society at large. Any strategies it carries out ought not to address specific demographics but rather the collective citizenry.

The second major problem with the campaign is that it distracts voters from the core issues by appealing to their feelings. The significance of this problem has been evident since the earliest political societies. In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates says that pastries seem to do the work of medicine but do not make us healthy, and cosmetics seems to do the work of exercise but does not make us fit; so political sophistry seems to do the work of legislation but does not make society just. Should our prime minister be trying to woo voters with holiday cards, or with convincing policies?

Harper is appealing to people’s emotions and flattering them by targeting their cultural identities, but is not telling voters anything useful. He’s not helping them make decisions about which party would make better leaders.

Politics ought to be about engaged critical debate surrounding the core issues, not about whether the politician in power or running makes you feel good about yourself.

Fortunately, Canadians are smarter than Harper thinks. Likely few will be swayed by his ridiculous political games, and most citizens will pay attention to something more substantial, like how he governs.

Path to AIDS misery begins long before infection

The notion that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar seems to have informed Stephen Harper’s latest masterplan for trapping Canadian voters. The plan’s goal, according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, is to increase the party’s links with religious and ethnic minorities in Canada through an “ethnic outreach team,” which will presumably be supplying the honey.

The fly-honey analogy is particularly fitting to Harper’s attempt at reaching out to “ethnic voters.” The prime minister’s team sent out “happy new year” greeting cards to the Thornhill Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday in which apples dipped in honey symbolize the sweetness of the coming year. This tactic is in line with the team’s strategy, which consists of targeted, one-on-one meetings at “major ethnic events,” and the creation of a large database of new Canadians.

But as any child knows, too many sweets can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and the same is true of Harper’s ethnic outreach campaign, for two reasons. First, because it is inherently discriminatory, and second, because it distracts voters from core issues by appealing to their feelings.

One obvious problem with the campaign is that it is inherently discriminatory. The fact that there is a subcommittee aimed specifically at the “ethnics” in Canadian society betrays the Conservative Party’s belief that there are Canadians and then there are “ethnic Canadians,” suggesting that Jews and other minorities have not really integrated into the country, which is far from the case.

Furthermore, by appealing to the specific needs of a minority group rather than the collective needs of the country, the ethnic outreach campaign ignores the federal government’s reason for existence: the betterment of society at large. Any strategies it carries out ought not to address specific demographics but rather the collective citizenry.

The second major problem with the campaign is that it distracts voters from the core issues by appealing to their feelings. The significance of this problem has been evident since the earliest political societies. In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates says that pastries seem to do the work of medicine but do not make us healthy, and cosmetics seems to do the work of exercise but does not make us fit; so political sophistry seems to do the work of legislation but does not make society just. Should our prime minister be trying to woo voters with holiday cards, or with convincing policies?

Harper is appealing to people’s emotions and flattering them by targeting their cultural identities, but is not telling voters anything useful. He’s not helping them make decisions about which party would make better leaders.

Politics ought to be about engaged critical debate surrounding the core issues, not about whether the politician in power or running makes you feel good about yourself.

Fortunately, Canadians are smarter than Harper thinks. Likely few will be swayed by his ridiculous political games, and most citizens will pay attention to something more substantial, like how he governs.

Street racers can’t outrun bad luck forever

My grip on the steering wheel tightened. As I slammed down on the accelerator, my brother asked me “What’s going on over there?” A moment earlier, I had noticed the group of people down the road and how their cars were parked. I knew I had better get my little brother the hell out of there.

I’ve known guys who street race. Not all of them were arrogant or cocky, they just knew they wanted to go fast and thought they would be good at it. And so they went fast.

Most times, street racing isn’t like what you see in The Fast and the Furious. It’s just a bunch of friends who dare each other to do something they know could be dangerous if they’re unlucky, but really fun otherwise. They find an empty stretch of road, usually a highway at two a.m., set up their cars, and gun the engine. The guys I know never got into any serious accidents, but I remember times in senior year where they spent a month or two without a car because they got “a few dents.”

Back in Costa Rica, whenever I noticed street racing going on nearby, I did my best to get out of the area as fast as possible, especially if things hadn’t started yet. I got out of there because many times when they’re excited, street racers will notice other cars near them and think that maybe these people want to race too, and they challenge you. Some of the crazier ones don’t like it when you say no. So I tried to avoid the situation completely. The best tactic when they came up behind, weaving in and out of traffic, was to maintain speed and not change lanes.

Some people say that there’s nothing wrong with racing when no one else is on the road, especially if it’s a drag race. This is like saying a flame is beautiful, but a large fire would be even more stunning. Then you burn the house down and you’re fucked. So I never raced, and did my best not to expose my little brother to it.

Most street racers are good guys, with a good sense of humour. Lots of times they are good at sports, they are easy to like, and they are leaders among their group of friends. A street racer is the guy or girl you trust because they’ve gotten you out of shit before, or because you’ve done something crazy and fun with them and gotten away with it. But the thing is, when you do something daring and fast-paced, luck likes to have her say. And the thing with luck is it tends to be unfair. So when it comes down to something really important—like people’s lives—I wouldn’t put much faith in it.

Depression and the Blue Sky Project

Some argue depression is a necessary evil, a critical counterpoint to that often-elusive state of happiness. Carl Jung said it best: “The word ‘happy’ would lose meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” But how much sadness is too much sadness?

Blue skies up ahead

A new study on depression hopes to tackle the difficult and multi-faceted problem of depression. According to the Blue Sky Project—led by doctors Kate Harkness, of Queen’s University, and Michael Bagby, director of clinical research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto—much of the major research focuses primarily on people well into their adulthoods who have experienced several depressive episodes. The Blue Sky Project, by contrast, studies adolescents and young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, with the belief that depression’s causes can be addressed if discovered at first onset, and potential recurrences can be avoided.

Dr. Harkness explained the nature of depression: “60 to 90 per cent of people who experience their first episode of depression in young adulthood will go on to suffer more episodes. So, depression really is a recurrent disorder.” This recurrent nature often leads to a host of problems later in an individual’s life, underachieving in school and work compared to depression- free people. Depression-prone individuals also tend to have more physical health problems later in life, and those with recurring episodes tend to die at a much earlier age.

People within the 18 to 29 age range are just as likely to experience their first depressive episode as they are to not receive treatment of any kind. University students are particularly vulnerable, because of the number of stressors that they are prone to. For students, especially those in their first year, the adjustment to university life—leaving home for the first time, living in residence , and being under more academic pressure than ever before—can be traumatic. Dr. Bagby explained: “Just learning how to balance class work and social life is very new for them at the university setting, and living away from home, that is a combination that makes it very stressful.” At home, students are more likely to be surrounded by a familiar social support system to help them get through a significant event like a break-up. Leaving that behind makes a university student more vulnerable, as they have to deal with emotional issues on their own.

Diagnosing depression

As with most mental disorders, it can be tricky to nail down a diagnosis for depression. The Blue Sky Project has created a list of subjective statements—including “I used to be happy,” “I don’t have fun seeing my friends,” “I’m not getting anything done,” and “I just don’t feel like myself anymore”—that sound generic, but can be key to diagnosis if experienced for a prolonged period of time. It is normal to have periods of minor depression in response to stresses, such as after doing poorly on a difficult test. One red flag that doctors look for is if this distress becomes debilitating to the point that it starts affecting concentration and memory, at which point it can easily start negatively affecting other facets of life, like academic performance.

Environment versus genetics

The two risk factors examined with depression amongst young adults are genetic vulnerability and major stressful events.

Depression is known to have a genetic component, which the study is investigating via a particular gene in the serotonin system, responsible for the regulation of emotions. Harkness and Bagby expect that people with a genetic variant will not experience as much stress—whether originating early or late in life—compared to those without the genetic vulnerability to induce the onset of depression. Individuals not genetically vulnerable are more likely to cope with stress since they have more psychological resources at their disposal. “These people are the lucky ones who are born with the resilient genetic profile,” said Harkness.

But being born with faulty genes does not necessarily mean you are doomed to gloom. In terms of environmental stressors, some people are lucky to be born into less stressful conditions. Conversely, people who have a lot of stress in their lives or have experienced trauma can get psychologically worn down even if they have a stronger genetic makeup. There are a variety of approaches in treating depression, ranging from psychotherapy to cognitive behaviour therapy to medication. After extensive screening, the Blue Sky Project administers an antidepressant that increases serotonin levels, thereby increasing pleasurable moods. This is ideal for participants who are experiencing their first episode of depression. This treatment works quicker than cognitive behavioural therapy in improving concentration and memory, which is beneficial to students who are experiencing trouble in school.

The cost of sadness

Depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. Harkness hopes the project will raise awareness about the cost of early-onset depression.

“In Canada we spend about $16 billion a year on depression in costs of direct treatment and indirect costs through loss of productivity. Most of this cost is borne by people with recurrent chronic depression. So, again, if we can figure out how depression occurs early on, we can help to intervene, which will save all of us a lot of heartache and money,” said Harkness.

Understanding what causes depression’s onset could help refine treatment, which is currently only 60 to 70 per cent effective. Harkness and Bagby believe that this number can be bettered with increased research on young adults through early detection, adequate provision of treatment, and prevention of future recurrences.

After that, nothing but blue skies

Blue Sky Project contact Information

Telephone: (416) 979 – 4294 E-mail: blueskyproject@camh.net Web site: www.blueskyproject.ca

Didn’t do it Justice

Unless you’ve been living in a hole the last few months, you already knew that Ed Banger’s flagship electro duo, Justice, made a sold-out stop at the newly opened Circa nightclub this past Friday. What you probably didn’t know is that if you have their album Cross and a Craigslist account, you could have heard “the show” and been $60 richer.

The set itself strayed little from the album, which really makes one wonder what the live show is for. That said, Cross is an excellent album. If you’ve never heard it, you should buy it immediately.

Known for their heavy rock influence and flashing white cross jammed among an excessive stack of unused electronics, the aesthetic for a crazy dance party was well represented. Unfortunately, the extremely overcrowded mosh pit could only squirm as kids attempted to “D.A.N.C.E.” while couch-surfing VIPs apathetically looked on from an aquarium invasively perched beside the stage. In fact, it may have been in this very aquarium that the duo sat for the unannounced hour-and-a-half delay following Aussie openers Midnight Juggernauts.

Bringing their recent album Dystopia to their first-ever Canadian appearance, Midnight Juggernauts played an energetic, dance-inflected rock set fitting for the Halloween season. Slowly but surely, the unexpectedly sparse crowd warmed up to their set, and by the time the “Juggerz” jammed out their final tune, Circa was certainly rammed to capacity.

The show was originally booked at the neighbouring Republik nightclub but was moved to Circa in a failed attempt to comfortably accommodate the overwhelming demand for tickets. In the giant building formerly known as Lucid, Circa is international club mastermind Peter Gatien’s recent contribution to the Toronto scene. But set deep in dirty clubland, groping ran rampant, and I witnessed least one fight before leaving the area.

Ultimately, all the necessary tools were present to create an excellent show, but enduring the long, sobering delay amongst the high-density clubber crowd caused even the true Justice fans to resort to having one more cigarette and then watching the show from the back.

Eat Your Greens

Students in the Medical Sciences building took a welcome break from midterm pressures to mingle at a farmer’s market conveniently held in the building’s lobby on Tuesday afternoon.

And that wasn’t just a quaint name, as Jaco Lokker, St. George campus’s director of food services, was quick to point out.

“These are the actual farmers,” he said, introducing students to local food-growers and the Local Food Plus program.

Lokker talked energetically about local food programs on campus while doling out bowls of hot pumpkin soup with tea biscuits—a $1 lunch that curious, underfed students quickly demolished.

LFP, a non-profit partly funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, certifies food that meets growing and processing standards meant to promote sustainable agriculture and encourage Ontarians to buy locally grown food.

How far had the veggies traveled from countryside to campus?

“The average farmer drove about two hours to get here,” said Lokker. Not quite a hundred-mile diet. “That might work okay in California,” Lokker allowed. “Ontario is a big place.”

Christina Miniota, who drove down from Kerr Farms in Chatham, spoke while busily paper-bagging tiny orangeand- green peppers.

“LFP actually came from a teacher at U of T,” she said.

Lori Stahlbrand, the founder and current president of the LFP group, has taught for U of T’s equity studies department. In 2006, the university became the first to partner with LFP. U of T’s contract with current food services provider Aramark stipulates that 10 per cent of campus food be LFP-sourced.

In addition to Christina’s peppers, fresh produce on sale ranged from Norfolk’s crisp apples to potatoes sweet and white from Dashwood—all storable foods students could stock up on, Lokker explained.

Reel Dark

The second annual After Dark Film Festival wraps up today after delighting Toronto audiences with its strong line up of horror and sci-fi flicks. Running out of the Bloor Cinema and U of T’s Innis Town, hall After Dark featured 50 feature and short films and even incorporated a full-out zombie walk into the festivities. Here are The Varsity’s highlights from After Dark.

Audience of One (Dir. Mike Jacobs)

Ten years after he sees his first movie, The Lion King, at the age of 40, San Francisco Pentecostal pastor Richard Gazowsky receives a message from God to become a filmmaker. He then begins work on his first feature, Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph, a biblical sci-fi epic. This film—like a Christian Lost in La Mancha—is the cataclysmic outcome of this project, which was supposed to be something like Jesus Camp meets Star Wars. A series of disastrous events, and no backup plan, has the pious crew putting more and more of their faith in God to “provide a solution.” Although at times it seems only the documentary’s music is what’s leading you to believe you’re witnessing failure, a quick one-liner shot of Gazowsky at work will immediately clarify any doubts of impending disaster. One can’t help but feel sorry for laughing at Gazowsky’s deep and utter naïveté, hoping for a quick and painless end to his delusions of grandeur. However, Gazowsky’s outrageous proposals for the future of his church leave you no choice but to affirm his insanity.—ANDREW NELSON

Rating: VVVV

Aachi & Ssipak (dir. Jo Beom-Jin)

Action-packed is an understatement. In the not-too-distant future, fecal matter is the fossil fuel of choice. Rewarding citizens with an addictive treat for every “contribution” to the energy shortage results in an underground trade of these goodies, in turn leading to all-out gang warfare. The absolutely ridiculous intensity of this fast-paced animated feature leaves you little time to consider how the “good guys” are going to “get out of this one.” Although the action scenes dominate the ninety minutes, an outrageous but logical plot follows close behind, sporting a filthy sense of humour. Holding nothing back when it comes to toilet talk and gore, Aachi & Ssipak is an animated Tarantino- style gangster flick driven by Matrix-esque action scenes, and is entertaining to say the least.—AN Rating: VVVVV

Glitch (dir. Peter Ricq)

Screened prior to Aachi & Ssipak, Glitch is a well-directed and captivating animated short, just long and quiet enough to convey a haunting perspective of reality. A random glitch in a virtual world leaves the protagonist in an unbelievable, mainly mechanical reality in which penguin-like blobs threaten his existence.—AN

Rating: VVVVV

Blood Car (Dir Alex Orr)

Imagine this near future: gas prices are ridiculously high and no one, not even the rich, can afford to drive. Enter Archie, a vegan kindergarten teacher desperate to find an alternative fuel to impress the slutty girl at the meat booth in town. An accident leads Archie to discover that blood, especially human blood, springs his car to life. Thus launches a dark, humourous, and disgustingly gory storyline. The comedic timing is spot on, and the acting captures the mood perfectly. However, the plot lags a bit and the ending, though funny, lacks direction. Blood Car aims to comment on society’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, and our increasing laziness through a good old-fashioned blood bath. This flick is worthwhile see for horror fans who like their guts served with a side of humour and political criticism.—Erin DeCoste

Rating: VVVv

Terror on 3918 (dir. Mathieu Fontaine)

Screened prior to Audience of One, this creative little short demonstrates a talented filmmaker’s ability to create a story of intergalactic proportions with a budget smaller than a student’s bank account. So inventive and well put-together, one can’t help but think of kids at play in adult bodies.—AN

Rating: VVVVV

Woody rises again

A four-hour meeting of the Woodsworth College Student Association on Tuesday concluded with a motion asking for up to $200 to fund a meeting that would see the revival of the once-great Woodsworth College publication, the Woody. The motion was put forward by Travis Cosgrave, a fourthyear Woodsworth student and the publication’s former layout editor.

WCSA unexpectedly dissolved the College’s 12-year-old student publication the Woody in July, deciding instead to launch a new publication, first called the Howl now known as the Ginger.

Daniella Marinucci, a second-year student and the Services and Initiatives Assistant for WCSA echoed the sentiments of Cosgrave and many others in saying, “I don’t even know what happened to the Woody.” Cosgrave said the meeting would aim to be a forum for students with regards to the Woody.

Alice Wu, the Ginger’s current co-editor- in-chief and former assistant editor of the Woody, spoke her mind about the latter at the Tuesday board meeting, saying that in terms of content “what was [in the Woody] was rather poor.”

Though the Ginger is currently funded by WCSA, a motion at the September board sought to fund the magazine with a $3 per semester levy. The Woody would breaking all ties with WCSA, becoming an independent publication. Fuelling the levy vote were unexpectedly high costs of the first Ginger issue—$ 3,300 for 2,000 copies.

“I don’t think that’s a reliable way to keep a student paper going, especially when that paper is in its first year of existence,” said Cosgrave. “There is no way I would feel comfortable asking for such a levy, even for the Woody.”

WCSA slashed funding for the Woody last year to $12,000. The board has now agreed that neither publications will be the college’s “official” publication.

“The way that we would attain funding would be still through WCSA, although hope that it would be a more independent and dedicated fund,” said Cosgrave.

Despite hesitancy from some board members, including VP administration Jonathan Lall, to vote on the unexpected motion, board agreed to fund Cosgrave’s meeting. The Woody revival meeting will take place Nov. 5 in the William Waters Lounge at the base of the Woodsworth College residence, and will gauge students’ interest in restarting the monthly magazine. Nearly 500 flyers have already appeared along St. George St., and Cosgrave expects to put up thousands more.

“If there’s a Woodsworth student who doesn’t know about this meeting, I haven’t done my job,” he said with cocky self-assurance.