Accountability and community go hand in hand

The practice of calling out daily injustices should urge us to reconsider our personal relationships outside of the carceral system

Accountability and community go hand in hand

A person’s initial entry into post-secondary education can be overwhelming for many reasons. The academic campus is host to a flourishing ecosystem of new ideas, new people, and new ways of thinking and communicating. Seemingly limitless access to the current, constant stream of intellectual discourse is suddenly granted, and individuals find themselves in environments that are buzzing with young political energy.

So comes the pressure to learn: to grow, to do better, to be better. We want to occupy the most defendable ideological positions, to hold the best politics, to have the least problematic friends. It is important to us to show that we are truly trying hard to cease to perpetuate the harmful systems we were born into by actively fighting against sexism, racism, homophobia and the like.

The drive towards political and ethical self-improvement does genuinely benefit communities in many ways. But it is a double-edged sword: it can also be impatient, unkind, and malicious.

To show others that we are good often means thrusting away those that are bad. It often means turning away from those that have made mistakes. It often means blocking, unfriending, ignoring, and publicly condemning the person that acted wrongly. In this fashion, we are eager to excommunicate — which is reflective of the fact that we live in a carceral, punishment-oriented society, one that speaks to the doctrine of disposability.

Our world is organized in such a way that transgressions and rebellions against norms are handled through further infliction of harm. The police and the prison system treat our aberrations not by attempting to correct the offender or to fix the damage, but by enacting upon them some kind of penalty, usually by isolating them from the rest of society. And even outside the criminal justice system, this punishment-oriented logic systematically pervades our daily interactions — reflective of what is referred to as a ‘carceral state.’

We mirror that narrative on a smaller scale within our own communities and on our campuses. It is easier to expel an acquaintance than to work with them through their growth. Much of the time, standing alongside someone who needs to grow is taxing, frustrating, and occasionally toxic. And the labour of assisting a person in moving past their harmful beliefs or attitudes can often be placed directly on those that these beliefs harm.

In a world where discarding and replacing is usually the least painful option, our connections with other people are informed by this option. Our acquaintances become disposable. This is especially true in the era of social media, where increased connectedness means that it is easy to find replacements for relationships that become difficult.

There are also types of people that are rendered as disposable more frequently and with more ease. Certain identities are constructed as more politicized than others, and consequently, are punished much more strongly, swiftly, and absolutely. The standards of morality and personal conduct we hold people to are informed by the systematic impacts of white supremacy and heteronormativity — meaning that we hold the marginalized to higher standards.

We find it especially heinous when a gay man perpetuates racism, for example, as seen with Milo Yiannapolous. Similarly, Snoop Dogg said it best when referring to accusations of sexual abuse levelled at Bill O’Reilly — that he hoped O’Reilly would be hunted out in the same way that Bill Cosby was. Consider as well the recent public reaction to revelations of sexual abuse and anti-semitism perpetrated by Ben Hopkins of the queer indie band PWR BTTM: with unprecedented harshness, the band was dropped by their label and had their songs taken down from Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming services very swiftly after a victim came forward.

This is not in any way a condemnation of outrage against these figures or figures like them. Abuse of power and people should not be excused or arbitrarily forgiven, and the rage and sorrow of victims should not be delegitimized. However, it is important to consider how all of our actions and attitudes could be adjusted so as to orient ourselves towards a world brighter and better than this one.

When dreaming of a future, do not dream of one where all abusers are locked behind bars — the ideal world is one in which they do not exist in the first place. It is possible to conceptualize a world in which, through community, intimacy, and mutual respect, we understand and empathize with each other’s humanity enough to not want to harm each other.

This type of future has never been compatible with the carceral model of crime and punishment, incarceration, and extradition. But it is an attainable goal if we change our ways of thinking.

Meanwhile, we should acknowledge that by condoning the exercise of punitive measures we are continuing to alienate those around us. We should be wary of mimicking the structure of the carceral system in our own attitudes and within our own communities. Perhaps this means talking our problematic classmates through their harmful beliefs rather than turning our backs on them.

 

Meera Ulysses is an incoming second-year student at New College studying Middle Eastern Studies and Equity Studies.

Taking back techno

Volvox and the creators of It’s Not U It’s Me on the political history of techno and its place within marginalized communities

Taking back techno

Techno’s traditions are “steeped in black protest and the plight of Detroit.” Techno’s inclusion in tradition and political sentiments allowed it to emerge from Detroit as a “post-soul” sound. In its inception, techno was a futurist form of art that was a byproduct of the African-American struggle and found itself rooted in a spiritual sensibility. This stands in stark contrast to the fetishized, European “smiley-face” phenomenon it has transformed into today. The genre was conceived to counteract the oppression of capitalist society but recently has become associated with commercial rave culture and excessive hedonism that has caused many to overlook the genre’s traditional sentiments.

From Toronto’s musical landscape comes It’s Not U It’s Me. Founded by Brian Wong and Cindy Li, the pair saw “first hand as an artist how skewed the economic landscape is here for those working in niche music.” Distancing themselves from everything they opposed in dance culture, the organization aims to “open conversation around how we can all grow together” and “try and set the stage for that to amplify, maybe re-contextualize those energies for today’s climate.” The artists they have featured have demonstrated “the right blend of dedication to craft, boundary-pushing attitude and DIY spirit.” To date, no artist has declined the opportunity to appear at one of the events.

Among these artists is Ariana Paoletti. She was invited to take part in the opening night of a summer series at the Powerplant Contemporary Art Gallery. Alongside Detroit kingpins Claude Young and DJ Stingray, Paoletti commanded the energy and attention of the audience. Known primarily by her stage name Volvox, she is an established mainstay within the underground sphere. She has 10 years of experience to vouch for the positive and nurturing environment that techno can offer. Volvox grew up in Buffalo, New York, and moved to Boston to attend college in 2003. Today she is a selector on the Discwoman roster. Her diverse and fluid setlists demonstrates her dedication to her intricate curation and has contributed to her longevity as a techno DJ in the modern music industry. The overwhelmingly positive reception resulted in an extended set and crowned her the centrepiece of the night’s many impressive headliners.

Volvox and the author CORINNE PRZYBYSLAWSKI/THE VARSITY

Volvox and the author
TIFFANY SIN/THE VARSITY

It’s Not U It’s Me is continuously striving to craft an inclusive, safe space that embodies the musical heritage that techno was founded upon. According to Paoletti, “techno and electronic music is by the disenfranchised person for the disenfranchised person, and for the outsider, and always has been. I love techno because it has that message. There’s hardly anything else in the world that has that message, that you can be a part of, and be like, ‘Hey if you care about this and you care about people and you love dancing, you can be here.’ We have this history of tying spirituality to music and community and equality. That’s the most important thing in the world to me.”

Diverse booking policies provide a means of cultivating inclusivity on the dance floor. The lack of inclusivity in electronic music today affects both patrons and producers. Cindy Li, It’s Not U It’s Me’s co-founder, believes that this behaviour costs patrons more than might be immediately visible. As electronic music grew in popularity, there was a subsequent influx of straight, white male consumers that began to dominate club spaces. “Clubs who only book white males, whose patrons are mostly white males, are bound to create an audience that’s not inclusive. Those audiences also breed a lot of toxic masculinity; especially in the presence of alcohol and drugs, many of these men become predatory.”

[pullquote-default]It’s important [that] the nightclub remains a safe space for marginalized people like women, POC and LGBTQ people. This is how we show respect to the foundation of dance music.”[/pullquote-default]

These were spaces that were traditionally occupied by black, Latino, and queer bodies. With the club’s ecology disturbed, patterns in attendance began to shift, drastically affecting the visible majority of club-goers. Li adds that, “While it would be counterproductive to exclude white straight males from dance music culture entirely, it is, however, imperative that those who want to participate have an understanding of where this music comes from and why it’s important [that] the nightclub remains a safe space for marginalized people like women, POC and LGBTQ people. This is how we show respect to the foundation of dance music.”

It’s for that reason that gender representation has become a well-documented problem in the electronic music industry. According to Li, “Within our heteronormative society, men are pushed from an early age towards developing technical skills and technical knowledge, which are highly valued in music production. What results is a music industry that has long been led by and filled with men, but it is changing. It doesn’t surprise me that male gatekeepers in industries like electronic music are putting up a stink as more women express an interest in their fields, even though many of the original pioneers of electronic music were women.”

There are steps being taken by leaders in the underground community to prevent behaviours that breed exclusion or marginalize patrons. “Female-only collectives have a massive impact in elevating female voices. Without collectives like Discwoman and Apeiron crew and figures like the Black Madonna, I’m not sure if the issue would have become as big as it has today,” said Li. Boiler Room recently announced that they will be hiring staff to moderate its “deeply misogynistic” chat room. Li, as an event coordinator, promoter, and artist, adds that “you can tailor your audience by calling out discriminatory behaviour, kicking out predators from your events, putting out a safer spaces policy. All of these things will inevitably draw a diverse audience to you.”

CORINNE PRZYBYSLAWSKI/THE VARSITY

CORINNE PRZYBYSLAWSKI/THE VARSITY

The rave environment is one that passionately boasts inclusivity. It invites all genders and individuals to take part and welcomes any sort of experience the rave goer wants. Paoletti notes, “putting that energy out there, connecting with the audience, and that energy transfer — that to me is real religion.” She explains that, “there’s really nothing more communal than a dark dance floor. You don’t know who’s next to you, and you don’t care. You’re there to be you, they’re there to be them, and you’re there to do the same thing, which is have a great time.”

This is why why techno often draws parallels to a new form of religion in itself. “A lot of people describe going to places like Berghain like going to church. And there’s a lot behind that. All the original Chicago house guys, and even the Detroit techno guys as well, they infuse their spirituality in this music. It’s tied to religion and spiritually at a very deep core place, but got rid of all the trappings and all the social control that kind of gets piled on top of that.”

The inclusion inherent in techno creates a faith that enthusiasts associate with rave culture. In Paoletti’s experience “dance music is about escape, and there is a strong hedonistic element of that. I don’t think you could ever expect everyone to kind of get it the whole way. There [are] plenty of people who just want to have fun, or who just love drugs, and unfortunately those people are part of the mix. I think it’s important — just like ancient religions who also utilize drugs to reach a higher plane — it comes down to every person to find a balance that works for them.”

The polite Canadian and other myths

Deconstructing common Canadian stereotypes

The polite Canadian and other myths

Having been colonized by the British and the French and rubbing shoulders with arguably the most ridiculed country in the world, Canada has always been at risk of picking up some of the worst stereotypes. Yet, our country has managed to garner its own outlandish stereotypes about living in igloos, putting maple syrup on everything, and pronouncing it ‘aboot.’

For the most part, these stereotypes paint nothing more than a harmless caricature of your typical Canadian. In fact, many of the stereotypes associated with Canadians might be ‘good stereotypes,’ as they tend to be positive beliefs about Canadians that result in a fantastic reputation when travelling.

However, several of these stereotypes prove to be far more insidious than they first seem, as they conceal some of the less pleasant aspects of life in Canada.

‘Canadians have free healthcare’

This is not necessarily a generalization, but rather a misinterpretation of facts. While Canadians are fortunate enough to enjoy coverage for basic medical services, such as doctor’s visits, hospital stays, diagnostic tests, etc., Canada’s healthcare plan does not cover prescription medication, physiotherapy, ambulance services, mobility devices, and more. These are all covered by additional health insurance plans, which come up to about $12,000 a year for the average Canadian family.

So, while your hospital stay is free under the Canadian healthcare plan, the ambulance ride there, any prescribed medication, and any post-injury physiotherapy are all paid out-of-pocket, unless you can afford an additional insurance plan.

This is very generous compared to other government healthcare plans around the world, but it is not the standard to which we want to hold ourselves. The Canadian healthcare plan puts those without coverage – recent graduates in internships often among them – at a severe disadvantage compared to other Canadians or those living in countries with better coverage.

In fact, Canada ranked second last in the Commonwealth Fund Report on healthcare, receiving the lowest score for efficiency and ranking very high in re-hospitalization after treatment. This same report placed UK and Sweden ranked quite high in comparison. Ireland typically caps pharmacy prescriptions at €144 a month under their Drugs Payment Scheme, and Sweden has a limit to how much patients pay for healthcare in a year, after which everything is free.

These countries are making an active effort to prevent marginalization based on economic status in their healthcare systems, while Canada’s healthcare system reproduces this marginalization and simultaneously benefits off the stereotype of having completely free healthcare.

‘Canadians are nice and polite’

This stereotype was likely created in juxtaposition of our neighbours down south, who bear the unfortunate burden of being known as a country with a rather rude population. Canada, on the other hand, is known for being a polite, welcoming country and is often portrayed as being an ‘escape’ from the United States. However, it is worth taking a look at what exactly we label ‘nice and polite.’

Canadian politeness is often associated with another stereotype: the tendency to over-apologize. There is no real evidence proving that Canadians apologize more than other people, and it’s not necessarily used in a polite manner.

For example, Canadians commonly apologize when someone else bumps into them. However, sometimes the ‘sorry’ that slips out after being jostled is more of a panicked exclamation or even a subtle way to get the offender to apologize for their wrongdoing. In this sense, Canadian politeness can often be perceived as underhanded snark and not polite at all.

On a larger scale, the idea of Canadian ‘niceness’ has resulted in a stellar record for human rights on an international level. The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument erected near the Parliamentary precinct in Ottawa acts as a testament to this record; “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” is emblazoned in English and French on its surface.

However, one look at both current and historical affairs in Canada serves as evidence to disprove this notion of our country’s commitment to human rights. Canada’s loaded history of colonization, residential school systems, Japanese internment camps, and the many injustices committed against Indigenous peoples, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community by the Canadian government provide more than enough proof for the country’s lack of respect for basic human rights.

And for those who dismiss these injustices as a thing of the past, current policies in Canada are proving to be chips off the old block. The practice of carding, for example, has created much debate in Canada, with strong advocates both for and against it. Regardless of one’s beliefs about carding, it is indisputable that conducting random police checks and entering the information of passersby in certain neighbourhoods based on their physical appearance into a massive database is an act of discrimination.

This is especially disturbing considering the fact that these encounters are very often made against black Canadians and rarely result in arrests or charges, which connotes a lack of just cause. While steps have been taken to ban the practice in Ontario, it is still in effect in several other provinces and territories in Canada.

The embarrassing irony of having a monument commemorating a continued commitment to human rights while simultaneously employing discriminatory policies is lost on no one, and the existing stereotype of a ‘nice and polite’ Canada only furthers this irony.

‘Canadians are extremely progressive’

It is a commonly held belief that Canada is one of the most progressive societies in the world, especially in comparison to other countries. To any Canadian who has not been living under a rock for the last ten years, this stereotype will already have revealed itself to be false.

The Canadian Conservative-turned-Progressive-Conservative party has had a profound influence on Canadian politics for the last 150 years. In fact, Canada had been under the leadership of a conservative Prime Minister for eight years before Justin Trudeau was sworn in last fall, and even the Liberal Party tends to lean right at times, especially in relation to the economy and foreign affairs.

In terms of social progressiveness, this stereotype has only proven itself to be somewhat true in Canadian cities. Rural parts of Canada are notorious for rampant bigotry, especially toward Indigenous peoples, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even in a city like Toronto, there is substantial resistance to change, including protests against the new Ontario sex-ed curriculum, opposition to employing gender-neutral language in the national anthem (a change which has recently been made despite vehement conservative opposition), and support for Bill C-24, which sought to create a ‘second class’ of citizens who could have their citizenship revoked.

Therefore, while Canada may seem very progressive compared to the United States – especially considering the way the US elections have been going – it is not nearly as progressive as the stereotype holds.

Stereotypes regarding Canadian social conduct often seem to have been created to counter American stereotypes. While conceptions of Canada have often been positive, we should be making an effort to break away from the United States. Constant comparison to our neighbours down south not only makes us less independent, but it also lowers the expectations we have of our country; being “better than the US” is not the standard to which we should be holding ourselves. Rather than settling for things as they are because it could be worse or is worse elsewhere, we should strive to improve life in Canada for the sole purpose of making our country a better place.

Saambavi Mano is a third-year student at Victoria College studying Peace, Conflict, and Justice studies.