Friday, 28 August 2015

Protection from the SNAFU World

A friend on Facebook shared an article that discusses how the cover image of yesterday's New York Daily News that depicted the shooting of the journalists was appropriate, despite the outcry on Twitter that it was a bad move.

This Is a Good Newspaper Front Page

One passage in particular caught my attention: "Upsetting things make us upset.  Parents will be mad, yes—and they should be, mad that they have to raise kids in this f***** up gun-filled world.  Be mad about it!  You're right to be mad.  But don't mistake the picture of the man holding the gun for the paper that printed it."

True words indeed.

A knee-jerk response like "we need to protect our kids from these graphic images" is expected.  What we need to do therefore is educate our children, to help them understand that bad things happen to good people and no amount of lawmaking will be able to change that.  Trying to shield a kid completely from the world does them a disservice, especially given the information-saturated medium called the Internet.

I'm no stranger to violence, having grown up with it.  Several of my relatives served in war and I have no doubt they had to kill people.  My father verbally abused my mother, and she in turn abused me; a wooden spoon was her method of choice.  I saw friends get into drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, and self-destruction. Shocking yes, but I accepted it as part of life and made me into the person I am today.  I abhor violence but understand that sometimes it's necessary.
Avoiding bad stuff is next to impossible but we can mitigate it to a degree.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Privacy? No Such Thing

While lying awake at 2 AM listening to the rain outside I had a jumble of thoughts mixed up in my head.  A comment I had made on Facebook, buried deep in a multi-layered discussion, had gotten me into trouble.  Yesterday I posted on the issue of Internet spying and someone asked me what my problem was with companies testing their employees' integrity.

It's not the people, or even the companies, that I have an issue with. It's the system.

I dislike a system that has companies forcing their employees to sign agreements full of legalese that they don't truly understand until they get into trouble for an offhand comment on social media.  A system that enables employers to fire workers for writing their opinions on a personal blog that someone found despite their posting under an alias.  A system that governments use to spy on LBGT or other communities that they deem "deviant".

You can say all you want about how terrorists have been stopped using Facebook or criminals arrested after posting stupid videos on YouTube.  Home is home, work stays at the office.  Everyone is entitled to a personal opinion or type of lifestyle, and that opinion or lifestyle should not have any bearing on their work performance - unless of course said opinion or lifestyle advocates or encourages criminal activity.

There is no respect any more.  There is no company loyalty any more.  Few want to have a reasonable discussion; everything now is knee-jerk reacting.

I worked at an office once where someone was fired for merely discussing potential unionization.  At another office, half the experienced employees of one department resigned at the same time when they discovered the company was paying them substantially less than new hires to another department.  A person I knew was forced to sign a two-year contract with his company because the boss overheard a conversation in which it was mentioned that he was unhappy with the job conditions.

It's easy to say that if you want to be truly private, stay off social media or don't discuss controversial topics at office functions.  But electronic spying is so pervasive these days it's hard to escape.  Phones can be bugged, webcams can be controlled remotely, computers can be hacked and information stolen without the user's knowledge.  A "Minority Report" type of world could be next.  It's scary.

At times I think I ought to throw out the computer and move to the country.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Social Media Spies

This morning I was dismissed from the site that I had been writing for.  The reason was an ill-worded criticism on Facebook of one of my fellow writers (which was promptly deleted by them).

My initial reaction was: if you can't take it, don't dish it.  Writers of all kinds frequently have to endure criticism, even verbal abuse.  However if I criticize someone, the intent is to show a person how to become better.  But perhaps what I said was the proverbial straw in this particular instance.  I don't know.

What really got me angry though was the fact that the person wasn't even professional enough to contact me directly first to discuss the problem.  And deleting my comments?  I'm sorry that the truth hurts, but deleting it doesn't make it go away.  Make yourself better instead of taking it out on everyone else.

But then again, it's hard to find a real professional these days.  Especially among the 18-25 crowd.

After thinking about it for a while I realized that the whole thing stemmed from someone watching my Facebook feed.  I should have known better, since employers are able to fire people who express unedited opinions about their jobs on social media.  However it's my personal opinion, rightly or wrongly, that this shouldn't be allowed.  In fact, several states in the U.S. have made it illegal for companies to fire people for what they say online.

I did apologize for my comments and wish them well.  And I've learned a valuable lesson in the process.  But they haven't beaten me.  Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Changing Names

Over the last two weeks, Montreal has been quietly changing street signs for University Street to Robert Bourassa Blvd.  There had been a brief but vocal protest last year when the proposed change was announced, but the city paid no attention as there were other "more important" issues happening at the time.

I strongly dislike the city's habit of changing street names to suit itself.  Not only do the homes and businesses along said street have to change all their letterheads and address information, but tourists who visit using older maps and non-updated apps will see the old name and wonder where the heck they are.  It's not very friendly.

The major thoroughfare Dorchester Blvd which had been called so since 1844, had its name changed in 1987 to honour the deceased former premier of Quebec, Rene Levesque.  This was seen as a purely political move since Levesque's main goal was to separate Quebec from Canada.  Incensed, the community of Westmount refused to change its portion of the road and it remains Dorchester Blvd to this day.

University Street has the same history, having been inaugurated in 1842 and named for McGill University which sits at its northern end.  And now it's gone, replaced by the name of another Quebec premier whose pro-French legislations were the forerunners of the now-hated Bill 101 which strictly limits the use of English in the province.

It's clear that the city (not to mention the province) is trying to eradicate its history.  English street names are disappearing.  English businesses are forced to remove apostrophes from their names and display French products.  Historical buildings that were once owned by English people are allowed to decay to the extent that they end up being demolished.  History textbooks are being rewritten to minimize the English involvement in the development of New France.

It's sad.