Archive for March, 2011

Lessons in History for Gadhafi and Other Dictators…

Posted in apartheid, Gadhafi, mandela, Politics on March 25, 2011 by Olivia A. Harris

I recently noticed that every decade a significant political event occurs that I previously thought would never happen in my lifetime.  Perhaps, the event might happen in my children’s or grandchildren’s time (assuming I ever have a child), but certainly not mine.  I am sure that I am not alone in this observation.

The first of such events was the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.  I remember watching the news on television with my mother and not knowing how to process what I was seeing: there were people actually standing on the Wall waving the German Flag.  Their bodies were not slumped over the Wall injured or lifeless from bullet wounds as would have been expected since the rise of that seemingly impervious structure in August 1961.  Many Germans had died trying to cross from East to West.  Now people were freely jumping from one side to the other, almost taunting the border guards who watched them. 

My mother was shocked by this event in Germany.  She had grown up in England, just outside of London.  She remembers being taught history of England’s experiences in both World Wars by men and women who either they or their parents had lived through them.  Their closeness to this history, by experience and geography made them natural experts on the subject of the War and particularly the division of Germany.  So when it came to the durability of the Berlin Wall, my mother had no reason to believe that she would ever live to see its collapse.  Neither did I.    

A year later, Nelson Mandela would be released from his life sentence at South Africa’s infamous Robben Island prison on February 11, 1990.  When he entered that prison 27 years earlier as a man in his mid-40s I’m sure he had no reason to believe he would ever be freed.   But, he was.  And his world was a very different place to what it was when he was taken to prison.

South Africa had officially abandoned its regime of Apartheid (I emphasis ‘officially’ because you cannot legislate what is held in the hearts and minds of men); Mandela was now an international symbol of peace (he’d previously been branded a terrorist by the Apartheid regime) and he was also grandfather.  I am sure that then Prime Minister P.W. Botha was more surprised than anyone that his mark in South Africa’s history will be as the man who released Nelson Mandela.  Like many, Botha probably expected Robben Island was meant to be Mandela’s living tomb.  But, like the Biblical story of Lazarus, Nelson Mandela did walk out of his tomb.

Later on it did strike me that I wasn’t supposed to see Mandela’s release. I also remember thinking I wasn’t supposed to see the fall of the Berlin Wall either.  As a teenager at the time, these two events made me start to question all the things I believed to be true.  What else was possible that I had previously dismissed as impossible?

A few years later I got the answer to my question during a history lecture while attending the University of Toronto.  It was end of term and we had completed our final section on the French Revolution.  The professor (I can’t remember his name) quietly made this statement: “Until men come to terms with the French Revolution, revolt of the masses will continue to happen.”  His lesson was simple: every oppressed group will eventually reach its breaking point.  Once at this point the group will feel that there is absolutely everything to lose if they fail to overthrow their oppressor.   If you have been robbed of your freedom, dignity, history and things as basic as food and housing, what else can be taken from you?    

Oppression can not last indefinitely.    I pray that Moammar Gadhafi and others like him come to terms with this lesson.

– Mantha

Don’t cry wolf unless you mean it!

Posted in bigotry and discrimination on March 14, 2011 by Olivia A. Harris

The sick, twisted fact about discrimination is how discretely and easily it can be executed. 

Few people can claim to never in their life have experienced being judged unfavourably or treated unfairly because of a personal characteristic over which they have no control.  It could be bias due to their race, religion, gendre, ethnicity … the list is infinite.  As a result, few can honestly say they have not had a moment when they actually wished they were different to who they were.   Different if only for a moment so they can simply be. 

I’m sure many of you can relate to want I mean by just ‘be’:  perhaps you’re the only man working in female dominated office and you’re tired of only having your opinion solicited for the ‘man’s point of view’.  Or perhaps you’re a member of the Jewish faith, and you’re only invited to join in political discussions about the Middle East question. 

In either scenario you probably can’t help wonder why you weren’t invited to join other generic discussions.  For instance, why weren’t you included in the discussion about new immigration policies?   Why are you only included in those discussions that are thought to be relevant  to you based on someone else’s narrow understanding of who you are?  Afterall, I’m sure they know you have a specialist degree in Political Science from a prominent university … don’t they?

Oddly, those perpetuating bias and biogtry do not seem to have the ‘yuck’ feeling it causes the person on the receiving end.   You know the feeling I’m talking about:  the feelings of slight confusion, embarrassment and anger mixed together.   And the final feeling: shame. 

Shame comes from the wish (if even for a brief of moment) that you were something other than what and who you are.  The wish that comes after being called the n-word that you were white.   Or when you’re called ‘sweetie’ in a meeting (although you’re obviously a grown woman) that you were a man instead.   Let me be very clear: this wish does not come from a thoughts of self-hatred deep in your subconscious.   The wish is based on the desire for equality.  An equality that comes form being judged on the same basis as the majority of those around you. 

And this wish is always a silent one.  It isn’t a something you would want to share.  There is more than likely a greater desire that the situation that ignited your feelings of  being somehow ‘less than’  had never occured to begin with.   But it has.  Now you must deal with it.

While tending to your own injuries, you might come across an individual claiming to be similarly wounded.    Naturally you will probably be inclined to offer your sympathies.  But, too often your feelings of sympathy can turn to rage when with a little digging you learn the supposed injury is a lie.  The person you are comforting has in fact made the proverbial cry of wolf for his or her own selffish reasons.    They cry wolf to avoid taking responsibilty for their  own failings or perhaps out of spite (what more serious charge can be levied against a person or situation you don’t like).  No matter the reason they know the cry is false.

And like the boy who cried wolf, one day the wolf will come — as we will all experience some form of discrimination in our lifetime — and they better be prepared.

Celebrities, Rehab & the Justice System: Black & White

Posted in Celebrites & crimes, Celebrity, Celebrity Rehab, Charlie Sheen, Justice System, Kramer on March 10, 2011 by Olivia A. Harris

 I like to begin my mornings with the news.  I want to know what countries are overthrowing their governments and which governments are throwing away money.   It gives me perspective.

This isn’t to say I’m looking for doom and gloom.   I just believe that as we all live on this plant together it is important to know what significant developments are unfolding around the world.   With that said, I also like a little celebrity news.   It is my form of escapism when I don’t have the funds to book a week-long all-inclusive Caribbean vacation.

 I used to think my escape into the world of celebrity was frivolous, with no bearing on the real world.  The past few years have shown me I am wrong.  Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Kramer from Seinfeld (I can’t remember his real name and don’t think he is worth the effort giving his racist rant a few years ago), Mel Gibson, Winona Ryder, Paris Hilton:  they are all criminals.

Whether you prefer to call them celebrity offenders or some other such pretty name, they are all ultimately criminals.  The listed criminals have committed offenses from domestic abuse, drug use, theft, blatant contempt of court and down right racism.   Each crime is documented. None of the offenses are ‘alleged’, thus unproven.  The evidence is there in black and white. However, in my opinion, the punishments meted out by the legal and courts of public opinion leave me confused.

Winona Ryder’s shop-lifting punishment: awarded a modeling contract by Marc Jacobs the designer from whom she stole hair accessories.  Paris Hilton’s drug conviction: a few days in jail.  Charlie Sheen caught in the prostitution scandal: plea bargain in exchange for naming names.   Lindsay Lohan …I don’t have the energy to write about her! 

All in all, none of these celebrities were really punished for their wrong doing.   However, there are other celebrities who have been punished by legal courts and/or the public for their crimes.  I guess they fell into a different ‘category’ of celebrity given the way their crimes were handled.  Here are just a few:

Todd Bridges: a child star who like Lindsay Lohan had troubles with drugs, still can not find an acting job because of his past. Exactly how many rehab stays and court hearings did it take before Lindsay was locked-up and the courts started treating her crimes with some seriousness? I’m sure it was more than they gave Todd Bridges.

Chris Brown: viciously beat his girlfriend and had to perform his community service. Although the courts commended him on completing the work (and I am in no way condoning domestic violence) he is still is having difficulty with his record sales. I do recall previously reading Charlie Sheen being charged with a domestic incident. The public must be very forgiving because that news had no impact on the success of his sitcom, Two and Half men.

Naomi Campbell: We all know about Naomi’s penchant for slapping the help. The legal system helped her reform her ways by hauling her into court then ordering her to pick-up the trash. It is all on tape for the world to see.  I guess there was no ‘bitch-slapping’ rehab available at the time of Naomi’s trial.  But, I think I came across one of Wynona Rider’s old Marc Jacob’s ads the other day.  That Marc is so forgiving that when he found out that Wynona shoplifted his hair accessories, rather than pay for them like everyone else, he decided to give her a helping hand by paying her to pose in his advertisements.   What a generous guy.

Lady Justice is said to be blind.  But, even in the surreal world of celebrity both the law and public still judge in black and white.

Must you clip your nails in public???

Posted in Etiquette, Manners on March 10, 2011 by Olivia A. Harris

 From the few posts I’ve made, you can tell that I am particular about what sort of behavior I consider acceptable and unacceptable in public. There are some forms of behavior that I simply cannot accept. At the top of that list has to be the sound of someone clipping their finger nails in the office!

Every Thursday morning for the last two years I have had to listen to the annoying ‘clip … clip… clip’ coming from the neighboring office.   I swear my colleague has more than 10 fingers (and I cringe at the thought, toes!!!) that he tends to every Thursday morning.   Not only does he perform this personal toilette at work with his office door open for all to hear, he insists on coming into my office when he is done.   Like an excited five year old, he holds his hands out to me and says, “Look! My hands are nice and clean now!  My mother always told me to keep my nails clean!”

 I do not know if his mother forgot to tell him to tend to his nails at home and in private.   I do not know if he is unaware that the sound of his nail clippers makes nearly everyone’s skin crawl.  What I do know is this: he ultimately does not care.   Why do I say this?   Well, there are some things in life you learn as you go along without being told by your parents or anyone else.   For instance, no one needs to be told that when in public you do not blow your nose in a tissue then examine the contents for all to see!   You don’t do this because it is simply a filthy, nasty and disgusting thing to do.   And clipping your finger nails at work with your office door open for all to hear ranks right down there too!

-Mantha

Charlie Sheen … What can I say …

Posted in Celebrity on March 1, 2011 by Olivia A. Harris

Charlie Sheen… What can I say about this ‘little rascal’ that hasn’t already been mentioned?

Has he possibly blurred the line between himself and his television persona (and perhaps alter ego) ‘Charlie Harper’? Yep!

 Will his children one day read about his recent shenanigans and cringe with embarrassment? Again, yep!

But, why is everyone so surprised? Have we already forgotten his ‘youthful exuberance’ during his twenties where he  jeopardized his career by abusing drugs and drink? And, how can we forget that he was a regular patron of L.A. Madam, Heidi Fleiss’ establishment (I’m trying to keep it polite) during the 1990s?

I will tell you how we forgot: Charlie Sheen was on the successful television show Two and Half Men that made a lot of people a lot of money.  The formula was so obviously simple: put Charlie Sheen’s life on screen; add a few characters and a laugh track … and don’t forget to change his last name so the story can be sold as ‘fiction’.  And it worked.

In fact the formula worked so well that Charlie Sheen/Harper was  a welcomed member in the living rooms of many families.   The character was thought to be funny, cute and perhaps a bit of a ‘rogue’!

Yet, during the past few months when the act hit the streets, there have been many shocked gasps.   Why?   What happened to the laughter?  Why isn’t the act so funny anymore? Then again, why was it ever funny ….

– Mantha