Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Let's blame those guys!

Admit it. You've already pictured the person holding the flag and he isn't white.
So the Boston bombing happened. And it's terrible, and I even personally know two people who were participating in the marathon that day (they are both unhurt and safely back home in Canada, thank whatever higher power that was watching out for them that day). Passions are riding high of course, and that's all proper and well, but the media circus is anything but. Let's put aside the movie-like tragic music that, first, CNN and then other networks, have been playing in the background of the scenes from the bombing. That's just wasted effort on their part. Instead, watch how the blame game hits the field running. The blast happened at around 2:50, at around 4 o'clock many news outlets were still reporting potential deaths at 10-12 and the number of wounded as unknown. By 5 o'clock (this is all EST by the way) I was reading how the authorities had a young man in custody and much was made how he was from Saudi Arabia and traveled through Saudi Arabia recently. Around 6 o'clock there was even still confusion whether a library in Boston was bombed as well, or if it was a fire, or if it was related, or if they found something in the library, or what, but CNN, MSNBC and Fox were already gleefully speculating as to the identity of the suspect and the fact (or was it really a fact at all?) that he was Muslim.

By 9 o'clock the comments on news sites (and not so coincidentally my Facebook and Google+ feeds) were alternating between "Oh, my prayers are totally with them/Remembering the victims in Boston" (Really? Like a dozen people in my contact list all personally knew the victims in Boston? What a coincidence!) and "Let's bomb them whoever they are". The big implication being of course that the whoever-s were from somewhere other than America, most likely in more southern latitudes and more easterly longitudes, and decidedly not Christians. "Is this going to be one of those 'let's not be racist' posts?" you ask. Not at all. Watch closely.

The Saudi embassy quickly swung into action. Full denial mode bitches! We're cooperating closely! The suspect is really a witness! And he most likely is, and I even believe them. Speculation by the media gives way to very public media mourning, celebrating heroes, and more water treading. And of course we should all feel bad about what happened, and the people who helped the victims are heroes (or at the very least good human beings), but all of this must happen without pointing fingers at U.S.A.'s closest ally in the Middle East. Ha! And you thought it was Israel! 3 billion and change to Israel in 2012 ($30 billion spread out over a decade in total, and some of that is being clawed back). Meanwhile 11.4 billion USD sale of 84 F-15s to Saudi Arabia and a bunch of Blackhawk and Apache helicopers for another $5 billion USD to Saudi Arabia in 2012, and probably another $20 billion in more military sales in the neat future. Care to guess how Saudi Arabia is going to pay for that? Oh, that's right, deep discounts for Saudi Arabia through U.S. International Military Education and Training program. How deep the discounts are? No one knows, although pointed questions have been asked in Congress. And, well, the Saudis exports to the U.S. in 2012 were $47.5 billion USD, so they can easily afford the F-15s, and the Blackhawks and Apaches themselves if they need to.

What does this have to do with Boston? Nothing and everything. Nothing, because probably none, or very few, of the victims of the blast were involved in shaping U.S. foreign policy, overseas involvements, and international trade. Everything, because the images of the victims will become part of the political and media circus, massaged and manipulated to suit the national interests. Yesterday, the knee-jerk reaction was to make much of the nationality and religion of the only suspect, because it's the default mode of post 9/11 world. Today, the knee jerk reaction is to do everything possible to either forget about the so-called suspect, or to make much of how much he and Saudis are cooperating, and to focus on the 8 year old boy's sweet school assignment, or the victims. Don't worry, it's business as usual.

P.S. At least authorities aren't ruling out the possibility of domestic terrorism. I hope no one has forgotten about Timothy McVeigh yet? Or that the Westboro Baptist Church is already saying that more violence will consume the nation if homosexuality doesn't become a capital crime? Hmm, sounds like a threat to me. It's not like Muslim fundamentalists have a monopoly on violence you know.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

There's a sucker born...

I am genuinely curious - how many other professions are out there that do one or more (or all!) of the following:
- demand you have a specialized university degree to get a job in the profession on top of your previous university education;
- demand you pay fees to get member standing with a "professional college" of members (whatever that's supposed to be) after obtaining the said specialized university degree for the privilege of applying to jobs (protip: said college doesn't actually do anything for you aside from shiny glossy monthly newsletters and some library in some building somewhere in downtown Toronto, and of course the previously mentioned privilege);
- demand that you volunteers as much of your free time as possible to basically work in your profession without pay in return for vague assurances of an interview at some later undetermined date;
- demand that every year or two you spend 600-800 dollars of your own money on "additional qualification" courses without which you will never (or so you're assured!) get a job in the profession (note: you pretty much have to do this whether you already have a job in the profession or whether you're just trying to get one);
- demand that when you do finally get that interview, and then hopefully that job, that you work part time for a few years (until a full-time position somewhere opens up), but continue to also do all of the above as well as pay union fees.

So, my dear Ministry of Education of Ontario, Ontario College of Teachers, and various Ontario boards of education - this is why I do my best to dissuade any and all of my students, friends, relatives, and acquaintances from pursuing a career in public education in this country - it's a con game and the deck is stacked against the future graduating teacher. Teacher colleges are an incredibly lucrative source of money for universities - high return on investment, low cost (part-time profs and guest lecturers teach at Teacher Colleges), combined with steady cash flow (those additional qualifications are taken by tens of thousands of teachers every year without fail). They have zero interest in: a) matching the number of graduates to the actual jobs out there, and b) providing the future graduates with realistic expectations about their future jobs or lack thereof. So to paraphrase Ambrose Bierce:

University (n.): An ingenious device for obtaining profit by creating unrealistic expectations.

(For an actually brilliant and incisive examination of universities as the giant corporate profit machines and hedge funds that they are, check out this post by The Last Psychiatrist - the entire entry is brilliant but for the specific discussion of the system and higher places of learning in it scroll down to part V)