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Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Xmas. (The war is not over)

As the days shorten with the coming of the holiday season many of us find ourselves more reflective and philosophical about our place in society and the possibility of personal salvation. It is a great time of year, but also a hard one for others as its themes of family and giving bring into focus conflicts with the way we, as a nation, treat some of our own citizens and the sense among so many fellow Canadians that they are powerless to influence even their own lives, let alone the fates of others.

Despite the obvious central message of self-sacrifice that lies at the heart of the story of Jesus, his name is used so often to purvey a message that holds this same selflessness in contempt.

In response to the progress of the '50s, '60s and '70s, the right in North America countered with a clever commingling of "individualism" and its antithesis, social conservatism. A toxic yet highly successful dialectical brew which rewards all forms of self-justification and self-indulgence by disguising them in a cloak of "personal freedom" policed by "family values".

For over 25 years worldwide we have witnessed the massive assault by the right on the post-war social compromise. We have seen the dismantling of social programmes and social safety nets with the active participation of centrist and social democratic parties. We have seen the destruction of the political idea of community and the notion that corporations and the wealthy actually owe something to those that they employ and that they sell products to. We have seen the rush to the bottom where jobs are outsourced and political parties of all stripes participate in the game of cutting services, budgets and taxes. We have watched as the corporations of the West turned from production to speculation, and as the disparity in income increased in lockstep with the cutting of the "tax burden" and the reckless and foolhardy deregulation of the economy and undermining of union rights. When the so-called left has had a chance to undo this... they have more often been partially or fully complicit in its execution. We live in a time where the economic platform of the Trudeau Liberals in the '70s would appear almost unimaginably radical now. And, it was not even radical then.

Meanwhile we are confronted by the problems of climate change, a growing and very real undereducated, volatile and angry permanent underclass, the supposed decline of a middle-class that is now at war with itself and that is often one pay cheque away from destitution and that lives under the stress of terrifying debt, and the death of the traditional working-class in the first world. The stations of social stratification are becoming daily more extreme and more disparate and are aided by the media's gleeful vilification of public sector and union workers.

Buoyed by the seemingly endless prosperity of deregulation and the free market, enabled by the usual pillars of apathy, indifference, and middle-class ignorance, this "vision" of the world has predominated for a quarter century of neo-liberal hegemony.

In the background were its underpinnings. The self-help crazes. The Anthony Robbins. The Dr. Phils. The TV preachers and the millions who sought personal healing and satisfaction in materialism, tokenism and, sometimes, evangelism.

We were told we could build a better life for ourselves and others if we ate well, took vitamins, made donations to acceptable causes, felt bad about suffering while realizing that we could not really do much about it.

Adopt a starving child. The song remains the same.

Above all, accept that things are as they are and that while God wants you to do what you can to love your neighbours he never meant the poor, gays and lesbians, the peoples of the third world or even your friend down the street losing their home.

In fact, it is always tough "love". This rightist brand of theological politics, accepted and embraced by large segments of the non-religious, claims that all suffering is self-inflicted. The poor are lazy. Minorities fail not due to oppression but their own inadequacies. Behind every welfare case is a fraud and a limousine. Unions are expressions of privilege and of elitism.

A world of people accepting no responsibility for their own lack of action.

Where has this led us?

To hundreds of thousands of broken lives, to mass poverty through much of the world, to the soulless pursuit of self advancement, no matter the cost.

We have seen the Gilded Age of massive "economic growth" built on the backs of nominal improved general material prosperity but with huge inequality, social instability, a lack of a proper social safety net, a lack of safeguards over banks and corporations, a reckless speculative economy, and an increasing social incohesion before. And it did not end well.

Hopelessness creates a sense of impending apocalypse in the minds of many and desperation breeds anger and hate. Solutions are often found in violent and totalizing ideological fictions. It is as if we are drawn, as moths to flame, to the social apocalypse itself.

We can, however, give ourselves and others a seasonal gift of real magnitude. We can save lives and make the day-to-day of so many much better. We can seek to find a measure of genuine salvation and an end to inner emptiness.

In the final analysis, we exist only as a reflection of our ability to effect the lives of others, for better or worse, and in our yearning, regardless of class, race, ideology or any other indicator, to be remembered, somehow, even if ephemerally or incidentally, as an agent of something of some significance.

This may be our children, our charitable work, our writings or our art.

It may even, in rare cases, be through what we produce, though most of us get lost in the workings of the wider capitalist machine.

But it will always come out in our actions as members of a broader tapestry, a true coalition, a general sorority and fraternity of people standing together, united yet not identical, and pushing, striving, aching for a better future through the ending of injustices, large and small. It will always surface in the backs of committee rooms, on picket lines, in church hall basements and in the countless courageous and largely forgotten moments of personal sacrifice by so many in so many disparate lands.

From those who will no longer sit on the back of the bus to those who will no longer deny their love. From those who stand down tanks with nothing other than their righteous anger to those who rise up in the face of unacceptable oppression. From those who have all too often died in the realization that they did it out of a love for humanity that stirs us all, to those who live to create a real thousand points of light, the thousand points of light that connect us to each other.

Malcolm X or Joe Hill. Rosa Parks or Oscar Schindler. Bishop Romero or The Bandit Queen. Rosa Luxembourg or Harvey Milk.

Jesus Christ, son of God or not, alone on Golgotha and the crucifix.

Chief Teresa Spence.

They all stand as a tribute to the triumph of the human.

And we all can too.

There is, in fact a road to the real spirit of this season. It is the road of re-engagement in politics. It is the road of expanding one's bubble beyond bank account, job, business or balance sheet. It is the road that turns, at long last, away from the embrace of the individual and toward the pursuit of common goals.

The politics and politicians of today tell you that there are only a very few possible outcomes and that "realism" dictates that essentially all points on the spectrum will bring the same basic result.

But this anti-democratic notion of an inevitable future is not true. And it can be stopped. We can stand up for union rights, worker's rights, social ownership of the means of production, public banks, "economic growth" that include everyone, tax increases to pay for programmes, social inclusion and many of these other ideas...and the proof that we can do so lies in the fact that we have, here and elsewhere, done so in our past.

It is never too late to write the future. And it is never too late to turn the tide.

But if we do not, we need to heed James Baldwin's warning:

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Attaque masculiniste contre des féministes de l'Université de Toronto

Translated by fellow activist  Martin Dufresne. It is truly appreciated.  

La Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) et l’un de ses rejetons dans le mouvement visant à créer des groupes de «sensibilisation aux enjeux masculins» sur les campus du pays sont arrivés à l’Université de Toronto avec grand fracas… et avec une campagne d’intimidation manifeste des personnes qui s’opposent à eux.

La CAFE, comme je l’ai déjà écrit assez longuement en octobre (, est le principal groupe à incarner au Canada le visage public et soi-disant moins extrême du mouvement des «droits des hommes» (aussi appelé masculinisme). Comme je l’ai indiqué dans l’article précédent, ils ont fait du recrutement sur les campus un axe majeur de leur stratégie globale.

Ils ont créé à cette fin un certain nombre d’associations étudiantes ou «clubs» de campus, dont un à l’Université de Toronto. Cette Men's Issues Awareness Association a organisé sur le campus un meeting public mettant en vedette Warren Farrell* le 16 novembre dernier.

Farrell est un apologiste des «droits des hommes» qui se targue d’avoir déjà été un «féministe» reconnu pour agir comme porte-parole intellectuel du mouvement masculiniste. Il est le porte-parole dont s’autorisent les masculinistes pour réciter des arguments du style Charles Murray et sa «Bell Curve», des arguments qui de toute évidence faussent et utilisent de façon abusive des statistiques et des références anecdotiques et historiques pour défendre des notions clairement spécieuses et anhistoriques pour nier l’existence du patriarcat, aussi bien par le passé qu’aujourd’hui.

Ce meeting a été contesté par un groupe d’activistes et de féministes de l’Université de Toronto et de féministes qui se sont objectés à Farrell et à la présence des masculinistes sur le campus. Il en a résulté une intervention du service de police de l’Université et de la police de Toronto pour démanteler la manifestation, lorsque les protestataires ont tenté d’empêcher l’accès à l’événement. Cette manifestation, qui n’a entraîné aucune poursuite pénale, a toutefois donné lieu à des accusations de brutalité policière. Elle a également conduit, en partie, à une déclaration faite par le Prévôt de l’U de T qui a prétendu, de façon assez hypocrite, que «la perturbation de cet événement par les protestataires constituait une menace pour la liberté d’expression». Bien que l’on puisse, évidemment, faire valoir que le fait de troubler des événements et la désobéissance civile sont également un élément fondamental de la liberté d’expression et de la lutte historique contre l’injustice, un fait que les administrations des universités semblent périodiquement ignorer, il faut en outre signaler que ce communiqué est émis par une administration universitaire dont la prétendue dévotion à la «liberté d’expression» est si grande que, pendant les manifestations contre le G20, elle a embauché un détective privé dont les signalements de «gens de l’extérieur de l’édifice de l’association étudiante portant une “tenue de Black Bloc”» a conduit à ce que l’on sait maintenant avoir été l’un des pires épisodes illégaux d’arrestation illégale de masse et de détention pendant tout le week-end du G20 (

Après cette action par des étudiantes et étudiants de l’U de T, un certain nombre d’activistes de la communauté universitaire m’ont décrit un autre incident survenu le 6 décembre, à l’occasion d’un rassemblement d’étudiant·e·s sur le campus en honneur à la Journée nationale de commémoration et d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes et aux enfants; une date choisie parce que c’est l’anniversaire de cas le plus célèbre au Canada de violence misogyne et antiféministe, le massacre perpétré à l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. Alors que cet événement commémoratif tirait à sa fin, un masculiniste a agressivement réclamé d’être autorisé à faire une déclaration, alors qu’un autre a été vu photographiant les participant·e·s.

Dans les jours qui ont suivi ces affrontements, les choses ont bien empiré, d’une manière qui mérite d’être signalée et qui dément les prétentions frauduleuses de la CAFE et de son rejeton sur le campus torontois, lorsqu’ils disent vouloir seulement discuter de «questions de genre» et d’«équité» et que ils ne sont pas un groupe antiféministe ou misogyne.

Un site Web créé aux États-Unis, A Voice for Men (, réputé pour ses attaques vitrioliques contre les féministes et pour son langage et sa rhétorique extrêmes, a commencé à cibler des femmes et des militant·e·s individuel·le·s dans la communauté de l’Université de Toronto au moyen de messages Internet épouvantablement agressifs pour les désigner individuellement à des fins de «correction».

Ces messages ont maintenant pris de l’ampleur pour inclure au moins quatre étudiantes et se trouvent tous sur leur page d’accueil. Ils comprennent des commentaires personnels désobligeants, des photographies de femmes en question, et des propos menaçants. Les responsables du site semblent y ajouter des militantes de l’U de T sur une base quasi quotidienne.

De plus, ils ont ajouté quelques-uns de ces noms de militantes sur le désolant site Web misogyne, Ce site prétend se consacrer à la «dénonciation» de prétendues violeuses et de femmes accusées de s’être livrées à des accusations de viol qui se sont finalement révélées fausses. Le très petit nombre des prétendues délinquantes effectivement répertoriées sur ce site confirme simplement une fois de plus qu’il n’y a là aucun problème social d'ampleur significatif. En fait, les statistiques démontrent que 97% des délinquants sexuels sont des hommes, et un site équivalent qui énumérerait les noms d’hommes à avoir commis des viols en Amérique du Nord ou à avoir faussement déclaré qu'une femme mentait à propos d’un viol inclurait des millions de noms et serait incroyablement plus fourni. Le fait que ce site masculiniste sert actuellement surtout de véhicule pour accabler de mépris et d'humiliation les femmes qui sont ses adversaires démontre le caractère spécieux de ses allégations et son objectif réel.

La CAFE, dans un article ridiculement contradictoire et hypocrite (, a tenté à la fois de se distancier du site A Voice for Men et de prétendre que les critiques de leurs écrits péchaient par «citation sélective». C’est une accusation risible compte tenu du fait que leur article établit lui-même un lien avec le site A Voice for Men et signale donc lui-même à ses membres et partisans les messages qui nomment et attaquent des militantes particulières.

Étant donné qu’un site comme A Voice for Men, basé aux États-Unis, relaie autant de détails et met à ce point l’accent sur des militantes féministes de l’U de T, il est assez difficile de croire que les responsables de ce site ne sont pas, à tout le moins, alimentés en information par les militants masculinistes de l’U de T. En outre, l’un des messages ( est cosigné par «Agent Mauve» et par «Paul Elam». Elam est un leader reconnu au sein de l’aile extrémiste et haineuse du mouvement d’extrême-droite masculiniste états-unien. Mais comme il vit à Houston, au Texas, il est clair que le véritable auteur de ce message doit être «Agent Mauve». On ne peut que souligner l’ironie du fait qu’une personne aussi dédié à «dévoiler» des personnes soit trop lâche pour donner sa véritable identité, évidemment pour éviter toutes conséquences juridiques ou personnelles au Canada.

La CAFE a de bonnes raisons de craindre d’être «citée sélectivement». Un examen même superficiel de la rhétorique et des assertions figurant sur ces sites Web révèle rapidement leur misogynie pure et simple.

A Voice for Men a très récemment publié des articles tels que «Marc Lepine is a feminist hero»(, «Manufacturing female victims, marginalizing vulnerable men» (, «Child abuse in the name of feminism» ( et beaucoup, beaucoup d’autres. On n’a même pas besoin de passer aux commentaires ou aux forums de discussion de ses cites, ou à explorer «sélectivement» leurs archives, pour trouver des exemples clairs de la misogynie de ce site. Quand on le fait, on constate une amplification de leur vitriol et d’une propagande haineuse violente.

Quant aux forums de discussion de divers groupes masculinistes, des forums qu’ils pensent sans doute hors de vue, les choses sont bien pires, une question à laquelle que je reviendrai dans un article ultérieur.

N’importe qui peut consulter les forums de discussion d’A Voice for Men ( pour y vérifier une colère palpable et une haine envers les femmes et les féministes.

Pour ne citer qu’un autre exemple, il suffit de voir le forum suivant ( sur le site Web Men's Rights Online, au sujet de mon article d’octobre, pour avoir une idée de ce que sont les masculinistes quand ils croient que personne ne les regarde (et soyez averti·e·s que l’imagerie et le contenu de cette page sont extrêmement choquants). L’ironie est qu’ils sont encore beaucoup plus violents lorsqu’ils parlent de leurs adversaires féminines. Et c’est loin d’être le pire de leurs forums de commentaires.

Comme la CAFE non seulement ne renie pas ces sites, mais établit des liens vers A Voice for Men et d’autres, ils ne peuvent honnêtement prétendre ne pas les approuver.

Le prévôt de l’Université de Toronto déclare : «Nous allons continuer à surveiller et à étudier cette situation. Il est important que tous les membres de notre communauté puissent exprimer leurs opinions d’une manière civile et respectueuse, sans crainte, quelle que soit la position qu’ils prennent sur cette ligne de division ou une autre.» Mais cette réaction est malavisée.

Comme tant d’autres déclarations libérales, apparemment soucieuses de «liberté d’expression», elle accorde un poids égal aux deux camps, comme s’il s’agissait d’un «débat». Ce faisant, la déclaration a pour effet de légitimer le mouvement masculiniste, de la même manière que les médias américains accordent une légitimité aux tenants du créationnisme quand ils leur accordent du temps d’antenne.

Le mouvement des «droits des hommes» est un mouvement haineux organisé, décidé et croissant qui constitue un ressac explicite et d’orientation violente contre les femmes et le féminisme. Il n’est comparable d’aucune manière au mouvement féministe et ne peut aucunement lui être opposé comme contre-argument légitime dans un environnement universitaire. C’est une réalité à laquelle doivent s’éveiller le corps enseignant, l’administration et le personnel de nos universités avant qu’il ne soit trop tard.

Mise à jour (14/12/12): Dans les heures qui ont suivi la première publication de cet article, l’un des articles liés ci-dessus, a été modifié par A Voice for Men, qui ont également supprimé le nom de Paul Elam comme son co-auteur, avec «Agent Mauve ». On trouvera ici ( une capture d’écran permettant de vérifier que cet article avait bel et bien été présenté sous leurs deux plumes.

Version originale de cet article : «The Men’s Rights Movement, CAFE and the University of Totonto»,

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Men's Rights Movement, CAFE & the University of Toronto

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) and one of its spawns in the campus based Men's Issues Awareness Group movement have arrived at the University of Toronto with  a bang; and a campaign of overt intimidation against those who oppose them.

CAFE, as I have previously written about at some length, is the front group that presents the public and ostensibly less extreme face of the Men's Rights Movement (also known as the Men's Rights Advocacy or MRA) in Canada. As I noted in the article they have made on-campus recruitment a major thrust of their overall strategy.

In furtherance of this aim, they have set up a number of campus clubs including one at the University of Toronto. The Men's Issues Awareness group held a public event on campus that featured Warren Farrell* on November 16th.

Farell is a Men's Rights apologist who touts his former "feminist" credentials to act as the intellectual spokesperson of the MRA. He is the point person they trot out to to make Charles Murray, Bell Curve style arguments that obviously distort and misuse statistics, anecdotal evidence  and historical evidence in defense of what are transparently specious and ahistorical notions that patriarchy is a myth not only now, but even in the past.

This event was protested by a group of University of Toronto activists and feminists who objected to Farrell's and the MRA's presence on campus. This resulted in the campus police and the Toronto police ultimately breaking up the protest, as protesters attempted to block access to the event. This protest, which has not lead to any actual charges, has lead to accusations of police brutality. It has also led, in part,  to a statement by the Provost of U of T stating, rather disingenuously, that "the disruption of this event by protesters was a threat to free speech". While obviously, one might note, disrupting events and civil disobedience are also a fundamental part of free speech and of the historic fight against injustice, a fact the administrations of universities seem to regularly disregard, it should additionally be noted that this is a statement issued by a university administration whose alleged devotion to "free speech" was so great that, during the G20 protests they hired a private investigator whose reports of "people outside of the GSU building wearing “Black Bloc attire"" led to what is now known to be one of the worst unlawful episodes of mass false arrest and detention during the entire G20 weekend.

After this action by U of T students, a number of activists within the U of T community have described to me another incident on December 6th, as students gathered on campus to honour the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and Children; a date chosen as it is the anniversary of Canada's most notorious case of misogynist and anti-feminist violence, the Montreal Massacre. As this remembrance event drew to a close an MRA member aggressively demanded to be allowed to make a statement, while another was seen photographing participants.

In the days since this, matters have gotten significantly worse, in a way that deserves notice and that exposes the fraudulent claims by CAFE, and their on campus offspring,  that they are only interested in discussing "gender issues" and "fairness" and that they are not an anti-feminist or misogynist group.

An American based website, A Voice for Men, notorious for its vitriolic attacks on feminists and its extreme language and rhetoric, has begun to target individual women and activists in the U of T community with appalling and aggressive web posts singling them out for "discipline".

These posts now have broadened to include at least four students and can all be found on their main page. They include derogatory personal comments, photographs of the women in question, and threatening language. They seem to be adding female U of T activists to this front page almost daily.

In addition they have added some of the activist's names to the reprehensibly misogynist website,  This is a website allegedly devoted to "exposing" female rapists and women who have laid charges of rape which turned out to be false. The minuscule number of women offenders actually listed on the site simply reconfirms that neither of these notions are a significant social issue. In fact, 97% of sex offenders are male, and a similar site devoted to listing the names of North American men who had either committed rape or had falsely stated that a woman was lying about rape would include millions of names and be inconceivably larger in scope. That the website is now primarily a vehicle for heaping scorn and humiliation on its female opponents shows just how specious the website's claims are and what its real purpose is.

CAFE, in a ridiculously self-contradictory and disingenuous article has attempted to both distance itself from the A Voice for Men website and state that its critics are "quote mining". This is a humorous accusation given that the article itself links to the A Voice for Men website, and clearly, thereby, brings these posts naming and attacking specific activists to the attention of their members and followers. 

Given that the A Voice for Men website is in the United States, and given the details that they know about and prominence that they are giving to the U of T feminist activists, it seems rather difficult to believe that they are not being, at the very least, fed information by U of T's men's rights activists. In addition, one of the posts is co-written by "Agent Mauve" and Paul Elam. Paul Elam is a well established leader within the far right American Men's Rights extremist and hate wing. Given that he lives in Houston, Texas, however, it is clear that "Agent Mauve" is likely the real author. One can only point out the irony that someone so dedicated to "exposing" individuals is too much of a coward to say who they really are, as obviously they wish to avoid any legal or personal ramifications in Canada.

CAFE has good reason to fear "quote mining". Even a cursory examination of these websites, their rhetoric and their statements rapidly exposes outright misogyny.

A Voice for Men has very recently published articles like "Marc Lepine is a Feminist Hero", "Manufacturing female victims, marginalizing vulnerable men", "Child abuse in the name of feminism" , and many, many more. One need not even get to the comments or discussion boards, or "mine" their archives, to find clear examples of how misogynist this website is. When one does the vitriol and violent hate speech are only amplified.

Once one gets into the discussion boards or various Men's Rights groups, forums that they likely think are out-of-sight, matters are much worse, an issue that I will return to in a later article.

Anyone can look through the A Voice for Men discussion boards to see palpable anger and hatred towards women and feminists.

As just one other example, one need only see this forum, regarding my article in October, to get an immediate idea of what the MRA is about when it thinks no one is looking (and a warning, the imagery and content of this page is extremely offensive). The irony is, they are far more abusive than this when discussing their female opponents. This is not, by any stretch, the worst of their comment boards.

As CAFE not only does not disavow these sites, but links to A Voice for Men, among others, they cannot honestly claim not to endorse them.

The U of T Provost states "We will continue to monitor and review this situation.  It is important that all members of our community can express their views in a civil and respectful manner, without fear, regardless of which position they take on this or other divides." But this is a wrongheaded response.

As with so many liberal, seemingly "free speech" oriented statements, it gives equivalency to both sides as if this is a "debate". By doing so, the statement, in fact, legitimizes the Men's Rights Movement, in the same way that the American media legitimizes creationists by giving them air time.

The Men's Rights Movement is an organized, dedicated and growing hate movement that constitutes an explicit and violently oriented backlash against women and feminism. It is not akin, in anyway to the feminist movement and is not, somehow, a legitimate counterpoint to it in an academic environment. Faculty, administrators and staff had best wake up to this reality before it is too late.

Update 12/14/12: In the hours since this article was first posted, one of the articles linked to above, has been altered by A Voice for Men and they have deleted Paul Elam as the co-author with "Agent Mauve". A screenshot verifying that this article was originally stated as having been co-authored can be found here.

Mensonges patriarcaux: Le mouvement des «droits des hommes» et sa misogynie sur nos campus

Translated by fellow activist  Martin Dufresne. It is truly appreciated. 

J’ai rencontré le mouvement masculiniste canadien (dit des «droits des hommes») en personne lors de mon passage à Peterborough (Ontario) en novembre dernier.

Je m’y étais rendu avec quelques amis et collègues, partant de Toronto tôt le matin pour assister à l’assemblée décisionnelle des politiques du Parti socialiste de l’Ontario, qui se tenait à l’Université Trent. Nous y attendait la panoplie habituelle d’affiches qui constellent les couloirs de n’importe quelle université, dont des dizaines d’affiches pour une nouvelle organisation présente sur le campus : l’«Association de sensibilisation aux problèmes des hommes».

Ces affiches étaient simplistes d’allure et de contenu. On y lançait diverses allégations, totalement hors contexte, qui, pour faire court, tentaient de démontrer que non seulement les femmes n’étaient plus victimes de la moindre inégalité systémique, mais aussi que la discrimination avait maintenant changé de camp, que c’étaient les problèmes des hommes qui étaient «ignorés» et que c’étaient maintenant les hommes qui subissaient prétendument de la discrimination. On alléguait même que cette «discrimination» était tenue pour négligeable en raison de l’influence du féminisme dans notre société.

Ces prétentions sont bien sûr absurdes, un point sur lequel je reviendrai. Cependant, leur stupidité elle-même a eu pour effet de m’amener à prendre à la légère les groupes à l’origine de cette campagne d’affichage. C’est une erreur. Le «mouvement des droits des hommes» doit être pris très au sérieux, et bon nombre de ses adeptes et de ses principes sont très dangereux.

La Canadian Association for Equality

L’organisation qui téléguide ce genre de campagne menée sur les campus est la Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE). La CAFE est un groupe intéressant qui mérite un examen plus approfondi. Ils mènent depuis quelque temps une campagne agressive de recrutement sur les campus et affichent déjà plusieurs associations affiliées dans des universités canadiennes.

Le principe de base de la CAFE est très simple : c’est que les hommes se heurtent aujourd’hui à des obstacles réels et fondamentaux à «l’égalité» et que les hommes sont tout autant que les femmes empêchés de participer pleinement à la société. Spécifiquement, la CAFE prétend que cela est dû à la «misandrie», qu’ils allèguent être l’équivalent de la misogynie. On comprendra que cette misandrie est la prétendue «haine» à l’égard des hommes qui serait en train de devenir courante dans notre société.

CAFE se présente sous un jour non extrémiste. Elle se dit favorable à la mouvance LGBT et nous assure que son mandat est de «réaliser l’égalité pour tous les Canadiens – hommes, femmes, filles et garçons». Elle affirme ne pas s’opposer au féminisme, en tant que tel, mais dit plutôt «avoir l’impression que la population doit être informée de l’existence et du détail des Problèmes des Hommes et du fait que ces problèmes ne sont pas isolés, mais plutôt reliés entre eux et faisant partie intégrante d’un vaste pattern social de discrimination, d’ignorance et de politiques sociales nuisibles qui de bien des façons désavantagent les garçons et les hommes».

En d’autres termes, les hommes seraient victimes de discrimination, eux aussi.

Cette organisation ne ménage pas ses efforts pour se présenter comme incluant également des femmes. Ils ont des vidéos de conférencières, ont donné la parole lors de leurs activités publiques à des «lumières» comme Barbara Kay du National Post, et leur liste d’«Advisory Fellows» inclut deux femmes, y compris, apparemment, une «chargée de cours et coordonnatrice de recherche» au Département de sociologie de l’Université de Trent, dont le «travail a débuté par une exploration du “trouble” psychologique de dysmorphie musculaire, qu’elle a reconceptualisé comme une exploration sociologique de la connexion entre la masculinité et la muscularité».

Mais même dans cette tentative on ne peut plus « grand public » de recruter des hommes et des femmes sur les campus, les mensonges et les distorsions font immédiatement surface.

La CAFE, dont la principale activité est l’activisme en milieu universitaire, a un «bulletin» que l’on peut télécharger pour distribution à ses camarades de classe.

On y trouve diverses affirmations, dont certaines particulièrement absurdes, des commentaires du genre «En dehors de quelques magazines traitant de santé et de bonne forme physique masculine, il n’existe pas grand-chose en termes de sensibilisation à la santé des hommes. Tout le monde semble avoir dans sa vie des hommes qui éprouvent des problèmes de santé. Mais bien peu semblent disposer d’outils et de connaissances quand il s’agit de relever les défis liés à la santé des hommes.» Ceci est apparemment dû au fait que les hommes travaillent très dur à des travaux que les femmes ne sont pas censés exercer, comme ils le prétendent ensuite.

Le problème est que ces enjeux ont en fait été longuement étudiés (et oui, les gars, il existe de nombreux magazines et publications entièrement consacrées à la santé des hommes) et que des mouvements entiers, tels le mouvement syndical, ont été fondés pour aborder ces questions et pour lutter au nom de ces hommes prétendument «oubliés». En d’autres termes, il s’agit d’enjeux qui n’ont rien à voir avec le sexe, mais plutôt avec la classe et les conditions de travail. Si la CAFE se souciait réellement de meilleures conditions de travail pour les travailleurs de sexe masculin, elle les encouragerait à adhérer à des syndicats et à une fédération syndicale comme le Congrès du travail du Canada.

Certaines prétentions sont encore plus spécieuses. Ce bulletin insiste beaucoup – et c’est un thème auquel l’organisation revient encore et encore dans sa propagande – sur un prétendu «écart de suicide» censé démontrer que les hommes font face à de plus grandes pressions sociales que les femmes. On écrit ainsi que «les hommes se tuent trois fois plus souvent que les femmes dans toutes les catégories d’âge, mais le taux de suicide est particulièrement élevé pour les hommes dans l’adolescence et dans la vingtaine».

Cette statistique est vraie mais elle semble beaucoup moins révélatrice d’un système lorsqu’on se rend compte que, selon l’Association canadienne de santé mentale, «les femmes font cependant 3 à 4 fois plus de tentatives de suicide que les hommes, et leur taux d’hospitalisation dans les hôpitaux généraux pour tentative de suicide est 1,5 fois celui des hommes. Des recherches indiquent une corrélation significative entre les antécédents d’abus sexuels et le nombre de tentatives de suicide faites au cours d’une vie, et cette corrélation est deux fois plus forte pour les femmes que pour les hommes. »

Comme pour beaucoup d’autres de leurs prétentions, c’est une distorsion.

Ils affirment également, avec une certaine hypocrisie, que les garçons souffrent plus d’intimidation que les filles. Ils en citent pour preuve l’Étude sur la sécurité à l’école menée par l’Association canadienne de santé publique (ACSP).

Pourtant, quand on lit cette étude, elle relate tout à fait autre chose que ce qu’en dit la CAFE.

Pour ce qui est du harcèlement des lesbiennes, gays, bisexuels et transgenre (LBGT), «en termes de proportions, les garçons étaient significativement plus susceptibles que les filles de subir cette forme de harcèlement, et ils identifiaient des groupes d’autres garçons comme les agresseurs dans la plupart des cas. Les groupes de garçons étaient aussi plus susceptibles de victimiser les filles de cette manière, même si les victimes de sexe féminin signalaient que les agresseurs étaient d’autre filles dans le quart des cas.»

En outre, cette étude nous apprend que «un élève sur treize a déclaré avoir subi environ une fois par semaine à l’école une remarque désagréable ou grossière à propos de son corps. Dans la majorité de ces incidents, les garçons ont été identifiés comme étant les agresseurs des victimes masculines et féminines, et les jeunes filles ont été beaucoup plus nombreuses que les garçons à signaler des cas de harcèlement.»

Franchement, ces données modifient complètement l’allure de leur «exposé». La réalité est, comme nous le savons toutes et tous, que les hommes et les garçons sont les agresseurs dans l’immense majorité de ces incidents d’intimidation.

Et, à ce titre, ce problème en demeure un de violence et d’agression par des hommes et des garçons dans un régime patriarcal, un problème qui relève bien peu des femmes, sinon qu’elles en sont les principales victimes!

De plus, le fait que des garçons et des hommes sont les victimes de la violence des garçons et des hommes ne veut pas dire qu’ils sont victimes de quoi que ce soit d’autre que de l’agression masculine et des notions patriarcales de ce qui constitue la sexualité masculine.

Les gens de la CAFE minimisent également l’importance de l’inégalité des femmes en général. Ils lancent des allégations sur la montée des femmes dans les universités et les professions libérales, mais ne disent rien du fait que les femmes continuent de gagner, lorsqu’elles sont salariées à temps plein, près de 30 pour cent de moins que les hommes dans leur ensemble, et qu’elles gagnent moins de l’heure pour des emplois comparables dans presque toutes les professions étudiées au Canada.

Les clones de la CAFE

Alors que la CAFE joue le rôle de façade «modérée» pour l’activisme des «droits des hommes», les groupes qui en émanent ne mettent pas de gants. Ces organisations se montrent carrément extrémistes et anti-femmes, se servant des affiches et de la propagande que nous avons vues à Peterborough, et que la CAFE prend bien soin de ne pas afficher sur son site.

Le groupe Toronto Men’s Meetup est plus révélateur de ce dont il retourne en réalité.

Dès les premières lignes de la page d’accueil de leur site*, ils mentent avec des assertions comme, «Les hommes et les femmes s’infligent la violence conjugale à des taux à peu près égaux (pour chaque niveau de gravité), et pourtant il n’existe qu’un refuge destiné aux hommes dans tout le Canada.»

Cet argument fonctionne bien au plan de la propagande, mais il est faux. En fait, bien sûr, la violence masculine contre les femmes est considérablement plus élevée, et, comme le prouve Statistique Canada, au niveau ultime de «gravité», à savoir le meurtre, les hommes tuent leurs partenaires féminines à un taux bien supérieur à deux fois l’inverse.

Mais même à de faibles «niveaux de gravité», ce que les masculinistes affirment est tout simplement faux. Comme l’a indiqué Statistique Canada dans une étude toute récente, publiée en mai dernier: «Lorsqu’on examine les taux, on constate que le risque d’être victime d’une affaire de violence familiale déclarée par la police était plus du double chez les filles et les femmes que chez les garçons et les hommes (407 pour 100 000 par rapport à 180 pour 100 000). Ce risque accru chez les filles et les femmes s’appliquait quel que soit l’âge, mais il était plus marqué chez celles qui avaient entre 25 et 34 ans (graphique 1.3). Les femmes de ce groupe d’âge étaient plus de trois fois plus susceptibles que les hommes du même âge d’être victimes de violence familiale (709 pour 100 000 par rapport à 216 pour 100 000 habitants). Le risque accru de violence familiale chez les personnes de sexe féminin peut s’expliquer en majeure partie par leur représentation plus élevée parmi les victimes de violence conjugale. Les femmes de 15 ans et plus constituaient 81 % de toutes les victimes de violence conjugale.»(1)

En outre, quand il s’agit de violence sexuelle, il n’y a tout simplement aucune comparaison. Selon Statistique Canada, «lorsque l’on examine les types particuliers d’infractions sexuelles, les données de la police indiquent que les différences dans les taux de victimisation entre les femmes et les hommes étaient également importantes pour toutes les catégories d’agression sexuelle.» En outre, «Bien qu’un nombre disproportionné de femmes soient les victimes d’infractions sexuelles, c’est aussi un nombre disproportionné d’hommes qui sont les auteurs présumés. Selon les données déclarées par la police en 2007, 97 % des auteurs présumés d’une infraction sexuelle étaient de sexe masculin, ce qui est supérieur à la représentation des personnes de sexe masculin parmi les auteurs présumés dans tous les autres types de crimes violents (78 %). »(2) En d’autres termes, les femmes et les filles sont beaucoup plus susceptibles d’être victimes d’agression sexuelle, et même lorsque les hommes et les garçons sont les victimes, ils sont en très grande majorité victimes d’autres hommes.

Les masculinistes ajoutent à leurs prétentions des sophismes comme celui-ci: « Alors que la mutilation génitale féminine est considérée comme une violation des droits humains par les Nations Unies, la mutilation génitale masculine est appuyée par des médecins et des éthiciens et elle est souvent la base de moqueries à la télévision ». Mais cela aussi est faux. Quoi qu’on puisse penser de la circoncision, elle est, elle aussi, un effet du patriarcat et de traditions et rituels sociaux et religieux masculins. En faire l’équivalent de la mutilation génitale féminine est tout simplement absurde.

Autre exemple : une émanation vancouvéroise de la CAFE offre sur son site Web des affiches à télécharger – également présentes sur d’autres sites Web masculinistes – pour suggérer que la culture pro-viol est un mythe (malgré les preuves du contraire, dont témoignent les statistiques précitées). Elles sont regroupées sous le slogan «Commencez-vous à en avoir assez de cette merde?» (Had Enough of this Shit Yet?) . Ils affirment également que les hommes sont plus susceptibles d’être victimes de violence, de façon générale, sans, bien sûr, spécifier qu’ils sont susceptibles de l’être en raison des actions des autres hommes. En fait, comme nous l’avons vu, 78 pour cent de tous les crimes violents sont commis par des hommes.

Ce sont des exemples de l’idéologie de la CAFE en action.

Injustice systémique et oppression factice

Le mouvement des droits des hommes se montre astucieux dans ses choix de propagande puisque faire appel au sentiment d’une injustice constitue toujours un bon point de départ. C’est un choix habile que d’affirmer que les hommes font face à la même adversité que les femmes et que cette adversité est passée sous silence, même si c’est un mensonge. Cet argument facilite le recrutement d’hommes – et de certaines femmes – qui manquent d’un point de vue historique et social plus général sur la vraie nature du patriarcat. Leur posture me rappelle beaucoup celle des Blancs qui hurlent au «racisme à l’envers» face aux tentatives pour remédier à des siècles de discrimination systémique à l’endroit des gens de couleur vivant au Canada et des Autochtones et Premières nations du pays.

En réalité, il n’existe aucune commune mesure entre ce que vivent les femmes et les hommes en termes d’injustice sociale systémique. Dans le cas des hommes, il n’existe tout simplement pas d’injustice systémique. Nulle part. C’est une imposture totale. Ce qui existe réellement, ce sont les notions de pseudo-oppression et de victimisation factice, et elles offrent aux hommes une justification lorsqu’ils tentent de bloquer ou de combattre les idées de base du féminisme.

Cette attitude se résume à un effarement à l’idée de perdre le sentiment d’un droit perpétuel, pour citer l’historienne Stephanie Coontz qui écrivait récemment dans le New York Times : «Il y a cinquante ans, tous les mâles américains avait droit à ce que le sociologue RW Connell a appelé un “dividende patriarcal” – un programme durant toute leur vie d’action positive réservée aux hommes».

Elle poursuit en notant que: «La taille de ce dividende variait en fonction de l’origine ethnique et de la classe, mais tous les hommes pouvaient compter sur l’exclusion des femmes des emplois les plus convoités et des promotions dans leur secteur de travail, de sorte que pour un même nombre d’heures de travail, le diplômé masculin d’études secondaires gagnait plus que la diplômée moyenne de premier cycle. A la maison, le dividende patriarcal assurait au mari le droit de décider où vivrait la famille et de prendre à lui seul les décisions financières. Le privilège masculin avait même préséance sur le consentement des femmes aux rapports sexuels, de sorte que le viol conjugal n’était pas un crime.»

Le fait est que les hommes et les garçons grandissent encore dans une culture extrêmement imprégnée de l’idée qu’ils continuent à avoir droit à ce «dividende patriarcal». Si d’aucuns peuvent percevoir comme marginales des organisations comme la CAFE et d’autres groupes masculinistes, l’effet d’entraînement de leurs idées rétrogrades et réactionnaires rend la marge beaucoup plus large que ce que l’on peut vouloir croire.

La colère et une hostilité extraordinaire à l’égard des femmes et du féminisme est dangereusement répandue sur Internet. Il me semble même que c’est un phénomène croissant. La plupart d’entre nous ont entendu parler du harcèlement épouvantable imposé à l’analyste des médias Anita Sarkeesian. Mais ce n’est que la pointe de l’iceberg.

Les hommes, souvent enhardis par l’impression d’être en quelque sorte «radicaux», de «dire les vraies affaires» ou de combattre ce bon vieil épouvantail de la «rectitude politique», tentent agressivement de renvoyer au silence les femmes qui s’expriment sur des forums en ligne. Ils vont jusqu’à utiliser un langage misogyne, des propos humiliants et des menaces de violence d’une manière très inquiétante et, comme le reconnaîtra quiconque utilise Internet, étonnamment répandue.

En outre, ces commentaires manifestent une politique défensive plus acharnée que je n’en ai jamais vue de ma vie d’adulte, lorsque des femmes (ou, plus rarement, d’autres hommes) remettent en question ce qui semble être des «institutions» masculines comme la porno, la prostitution, l’objectivation de femmes socialement «attrayantes», etc. C’est non seulement vrai dans les milieux de droite, mais ce l’est également dans les idées et commentaires exprimés par beaucoup d’hommes soi-disant «progressistes». Ils s’indignent à l’idée que, par exemple, la sexualité qu’ils ont appris à embrasser pourrait être un instrument d’oppression sociale des femmes plutôt que simplement la «réalité» des choses et la «façon dont elles sont», comme ils ont toujours cru.

Mais loin d’être radicales, ces idées constituent un piétinement et même un retour complet à la misogynie et à l’attitude défensive des hommes que doivent affronter les femmes et le mouvement féministe depuis toujours. Ce n’est que maintenant où le mouvement des femmes a fait certains progrès que l’intensité de cette réaction s’aggrave et que les tyrans trouvent en Internet une chaire de taille sans précédent.

La réaction hostile au féminisme, à ses idées, à ses adeptes et à ses avancées existent depuis les débuts du mouvement des femmes. Les médias et la culture populaire n’ont cessé de chercher à émousser son tranchant radical à chaque étape.

C’est pourquoi nous devons tenir compte de la réémergence en ligne et sur nos campus d’un mouvement d’assertion des droits des hommes et de sa propagande. Ces activistes sont dangereux et les idées fausses qu’ils prônent risquent de séduire beaucoup de jeunes hommes dans nos universités. Elles peuvent même jeter les bases de la prochaine vague d’attaques apparemment incessantes contre la lutte féministe pour l’égalité des femmes.


Original: Lies our fathers told us: The men's rights movement and campus-based misogyny - 

Version française: Martin Dufresne

Paul Elam and Agent Mauve. Men's Rights Online

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Walmart's Killer rollbacks: The human cost of lower prices

Walmart is "so confident in our low prices, we guarantee them." And they are always reassuring us that their "Rollback low prices just got lower"

Ever wonder how they do it? We all know on a certain level how they do, even as so many of us shop there. They, as much of retail corporate North America has done, have sourced all of their purchasing from factories in the Third World that can produce certain goods more cheaply than they could be produced in North America, and that can do so with little to no regard for the lives of their workers. 

But this fixation on the bottom line is even more directly deadly and crass than many consumers would have assumed. It turns out that, when given the chance, Walmart directly refused to pay for a plan to make fire safety improvements in the factories that it gets its clothing from, as it would have cost them money. Money that might have meant an increase in prices on the products that the factories produce of a few pennies an item. Or that might have cut into Walmart's profits by the same amount had they chosen to keep the end prices to consumers the same.

As Bloomberg News revealed on December 5, 2012, minutes from a meeting in 2011 around plant safety in places like Bangladesh show that Walmart, and others, while well aware of the risks to the lives of the workers involved, refused to invest in factory safety. It unfolded this way:

Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Wal-Mart director of ethical sourcing, told attendees the company wouldn’t share the cost, according to Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, who attended the gathering. Kalavakolanu and her counterpart at Gap reiterated their position in a report folded into the meeting minutes, obtained by Bloomberg News.

“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” they said in the document. “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” 
Now it is clear the predictable price in blood that was paid for this decision. On November 24, 2012, 112 workers died in an horrific factory fire in Bangladesh at the Tazreen Factory that produced garments for Walmart and other chains. Walmart has claimed that the factory was no longer "authorized" to produce garments for it, but it did, somehow, continue to do so, and documents that have come to light clearly show that "as recently as September, five of 14 production lines at the factory were making shirts and pajamas for Wal-Mart "

These workers died in appalling ways. Many jumped to their deaths from windows to avoid being burned alive. Others perished clustered together with no way out, as there were no emergency exits, and not enough exits for those numbers of people to escape a rapidly spreading conflagration. They would have burned to death or died of asphyxiation due to extreme heat or smoke.  Absolutely no consideration had been given to the safety of these people.

In 1960, 95% of the clothing purchased in the United States was made in the United States. Today the figure is 5%. The Canadian garment industry has seen a similar and equally dramatic decline in production.

Entire former garment districts of cities are now home to fancy loft style condos, offices and bars or restaurants.

Despite widespread belief to the contrary, it is not true that the United States does not produce anything anymore. In terms of the overall value of the goods it produces the US still leads the world and this value of total production has doubled since the mid-80's. Factories across the US produce many industrial and military goods, for example, that are highly valuable and that, for a variety of reasons, cannot be "outsourced" to the Third World. This is true in the food and beverage industries as well. The reasons range from national security, to the costs associated with and the availability of skilled labour, to quality control requirements, to obvious factors such as the proximity of factories in the food and beverage industries to farms and to markets. 

What is true, however, is that far fewer people are employed by the manufacturing sector; a sector whose often unionized workplaces meant higher wages. In fact the precipitous decline in the percentage of Americans working in  manufacturing over the last 20 years has as much, if not more to do with "efficiency" in production methods as it does with outsourcing. In other words, American factories can produce what they did a generation ago with significantly fewer workers. This is one of the reasons that employers have been able to put downward pressures on their manufacturing workforces' wages and benefits even in industries that remain largely within North America. There are many more people available to do fewer jobs.

But when it comes to garments and shoes specifically, and to other products that can be made in whole or in part with unskilled labour production has been almost entirely shifted to countries where the labour conditions are identical to those that existed in the "Dark Satanic Mills" of the industrial revolution in England. This has allowed the "rollback", disposable goods, consumerist model of North American retail; a model embodied by Walmart, but equally true of other major brands, chains and retailers.

It is not only true of the garment industry. An expose published in England in October detail the "living hell" that workers in "Communist" China endure to put the iPhone 5 in our pockets:

The horrific human cost of producing the phone has been exposed at Foxconn in Taiyuan, northern China by the Sunday Mirror. The investigation revealed that low-paid factory staff have been given targets of producing one gadget every 30 seconds, 1000 a day, or be sacked.

They said that the exhausting workload is so high that they are banned from talking to one another during production, and even have paid fines for visiting the toilet more than three times in the grueling shift hours.

The take-home salary adds up to just 230 pounds a month, the paper said. Humiliation begins at the factory gates, where workers have to walk through a barrage of metal detectors and are subjected to a full-body search, it added.

The horrors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 in the United Sates, hauntingly similar as they are to what happened in Bangladesh just mere days ago helped to lead to the beginnings of real health and safety standards in American factories. Workers in many factories enjoyed relatively good wages and working conditions during the period of the great post-war "compromise", thanks to the struggles of unions and the pressures that this put on employers and governments. But with the growth of globalization and the rise of the middle-class consumerist culture in which "saving" money is a near spiritual belief, as is the overwhelming fixation of corporations on delivering returns to shareholders, even the lower wages and still often substandard working conditions in factories in North America with unskilled production lines became an obvious hindrance to the corporate urge to provide both profit and "cheap" prices.

It was not possible for retail chains and brands to recreate in North America the conditions of the Triangle Factory, so they did so in factories across the Third World. Out-of-reach of even the most inadequate health and safety standards of some US states, out-of-reach of the North American union movement, and, perhaps in many respects most importantly, out-of-sight-and-mind of the North American consumer. While images of their neighbours jumping to their deaths to avoid burning alive would likely cause an outcry, the direct hope is that, if this is happening far away, to people in countries that many would be unable to find on a map, consumers by-and-large simply won't care.

Given that, in spite of widespread awareness of Walmart's appalling workplace practices and the low wages in their stores in North America, there has been no discernible shift away from Walmart among consumers, there is little reason to think that the corporations are wrong.

Scott Nova, the executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium said in The Nation "“Walmart’s greed and arrogance appear to be boundless...This is a company that siphons billions in subsidies from US taxpayers, that has made billions in profits on the backs of Bangladeshi workers, then scoffs at the notion that it should be asked to pay one dime to protect those workers from dying in factory fires while they sew Walmart clothes.”

And Walmart will continue to scoff at it, until they, and others complicit in these workplace practices are forced to do otherwise.

While encouraging consumer boycotts of the worst corporate offenders can be one aspect of this, their impact is ultimately limited. The problem is, there are almost no retail or electronic consumer chains or corporations who do not abuse workers rights and are not complicit with these practices in the Third World. Buying goods manufactured in horrific factories at Target, Best Buy or Giant Tiger instead of Walmart accomplishes little.

In the end, allowing for free trade or the free flow of goods into Canada without regard for the conditions under which they are produced is the fundamental problem. We have to fight the entire notion of detaching consumption from morality, worker's rights and social justice. We have to take action to ensure that built into our trade with all countries is a support for the rights of workers in those countries; even if this means defying international trade organizations or abrogating trade agreements.

This will, without any doubt, mean higher prices on many consumer goods and a return to a less disposable consumer culture. But the alternative is to continue to treat the lives of tens-of-millions of people in other countries as disposable.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Rob Ford's downfall.

Rob Ford is no longer the mayor of Toronto.

In a decision that, I think one can fairly say, has stunned and shocked many, not least myself, Justice Charles Hackland has removed Ford from office for breaching provincial conflict of interest law. Justice Hackland has allowed 14 days for Ford to vacate the office or to appeal, and there can be little doubt that Ford will appeal. It may be, therefore, that Ford will be granted an appeal and a stay of the judgement, and he may remain in office for many more months or even end up serving his full term.

But there can be little doubt anymore that Ford is politically finished after what is, at least in recent memory, an unprecedented legal decision and after the farcical soap opera of the last two years that wearied even many of those who swept Ford into office on a wave of populist backlash to the perceived haughtiness of, and disappointments in Mayor David Miller's administration. That wave created a brief "coalition"  of voters between Ford's core block of suburban middle-class whites and broader sections of Toronto's very diverse electorate.

This coalition, already coming apart, can be safely said to be over.

Many of his core supporters will no doubt stay with him no matter what happens. There is a constituency on the hard right that basically sees the courts as being a fundamental part of a liberal and socialist "conspiracy" against men, tradition, Canada, Christianity, etc. To them this was a political and not a legal decision.

Ford reflected this in his first, and very brief response to his ouster outside of his office today when he said "This comes down to left-wing politics. The left-wing wants me out of here".

This was a predictable response, as Ford has never, in his personal life or politcal career, really accepted responsiblity for any of his actions and nor has he been made to. Until now.

As Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who tried the case on behalf of the citizen complainant Paul Magder, said “Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford.”

Judge Hackland's ruling, once it has had time to sink in and be digested over the coming days, is truly damning. In his judgement, which centered around Ford's participation in a vote at Toronto City Council where the mayor and his allies overturned a decision by the city's Integrity Commissioner that Ford should pay back money he solicited on city letterhead for his football "charity", the judge demolishes Ford's legal arguments.

While acknowledging that "the circumstances of this case demonstrate that there was absolutely no issue of corruption or pecuniary gain on the respondent’s part" the judge goes on to dismantle Ford's claims of innocent ignorance stating that Ford's "conduct in speaking and voting on the matter involving his repayment obligation did not occur through inadvertence. Inadvertence involves oversight, inattention or carelessness. On the contrary, the respondent’s participation was a deliberate choice. He testified in this proceeding that he appreciated that the resolution before Council impacted him financially..." and further that Ford "admitted that he sought no advice, legal or otherwise, as to whether he should be involved in the debate."

In response to Ford's repeated claims that this was no more than an "error in judgement", after stating that "In one sense, every contravention of a statute based on deliberate action can be said to involve an error in judgment" Hackland goes on to state that "In my opinion, the respondent’s [Ford's] actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful blindness. As such, I find his actions are incompatible with an error in judgment."

Any reasonable person, after reading the ruling, will plainly see that this was a decision based in law, not politics, and that it was the result of Ford's own colossal sense of arrogance and entitlement.

Whether it was managing to get out of drunk driving, pot possession or two assault charges (including one for assaulting his own wife), or  whether it was never being held to account for first being a part-time councillor and then a part-time mayor who skipped out on work to coach football and who collected a full-time salary from his family business while being paid by the "taxpayer", or whether it was not having to face any consequences for numerous dubious actions like having city road repairs in front of his business sped up or having public buses diverted to pick up his football team (throwing hard working commuters out into the rain during rush hour) there had been no consequences.

He was seemingly invincible.

But like all those who think, and whose popularity and power often oddly depends upon the fact that they are somehow above the rules, once this bubble has been burst, once it has been shown that the emperor indeed has no clothes, there is no going back. His allies on council were already abandoning him. I suspect this trickle of distancing and doubts will become a stampede.

Ford will now join a long line of populist demagogues whose fall from grace will be as rapid as their rise.

Regardless of any further legal decisions,  it is impossible to see how this decision is not Rob Ford's final political downfall.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rob Ford as metaphor: The real culture of entitlement.

What to make, just past its second anniversary, of the circus act that is Rob Ford's administration in Toronto? A perpetual sideshow and distraction where the primary attraction, the mayor himself, seems anxious to outdo himself in terms of buffoonery and apparent stupidity.

Many Torontonians, including some, I suspect, who voted for him, wring their hands in angst at each new development in the train wreck that his administration has become. Facing two court challenges and having to take the stand in both while in office, seeing no hypocrisy in talking about "gravy trains" while skipping out on the job that he was elected and is paid to do to coach high school football (including failing to attend the Big City Mayor's Conference in Ottawa to do so), using his influence to get actually working citizens kicked off of public buses during rush hour in bad weather so that his football team could get picked up (and it is obvious this happened, despite absurd claims by the police to the contrary, given that the police had not made such a request of the TTC since a factory explosion four years prior in 2008), having city road crews rush a job in front of his family's business just in time for an anniversary project, etc.

It is hard for many to believe that Ford is mayor of the largest, most diverse and what is perceived as the most liberal city in the country, if not in North America.

Ford won, as we all know, despite many seeming missteps prior to his election. His comments and actions before becoming mayor made it abundantly clear that he was homophobic, had a stereotyped view of many of the city's ethnic communities, had almost no understanding of how city governance worked, and so on. He was embraced by many, especially suburban whites and males, as a populist hero who was "one of them" in spite of the well established reality that he was a rich kid, who had never had to work a real job, had treated his job as city councillor accordingly and had made it a part-time one, had collected a second six figure salary from his family's business while being paid by the public, and had clearly lead a silver spoon life.

He won despite it being revealed that he had somehow got out of DUI and pot charges in Florida that would have sent many of the state's African-American citizens to jail for a very long time. It was also known that he had been charged with assault twice, including as recently in 2008 against his wife.
In the end he won by a larger margin as a first time mayor than either Mel Lastman or David Miller had when they were first elected.

Two years later it is worth reexamining this. It is worth also reexamining whether or not Ford won "despite" these things at all.

It is easy to believe that many of the wealthy pseudo-populist standard bearers of the right in North America, or their sycophantic followers in segments of the media and the political class are morons. They often make pronouncements or comments that defy reality.

While humorous, what can one make of a candidate for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world bemoaning the lack of opening windows in jet planes! (He later claimed it was a "joke" but...)Mitt Romney is actually not stupid, so why would he make such an idiotic comment? Far more significantly, how could he actually think, among other things, as he clearly does that 47 per cent of the American population are government dependents who pay no income tax?

And how, despite his eastern seaboard capitalist pedigree, and the clear reality that he had gold plated diapers that made sure he never faced any kind of  financial adversity in his life, did he still manage to carry a large majority of the votes of whites and males in the USA as a whole and in some of the poorest parts of the USA in particular?

The first point, I think, is that wealthy politicians like Ford or Romney, or the delusional ranter Donald Trump, are not stupid, they simply have no clue. They are utterly detached from reality as a result of extreme privilege. Ford is not being disingenuous; this is his reality. Romney wonders why he cannot open jet plane windows because his wealth has opened everything else. If he had the wherewithal he probably could be made to believe he was Bruce Wayne. Why not? Shouldn't all rich white guys be able to kick ass with privileges paid for by their corporations?

The more interesting question, is why does anyone follow them and vote for them? While Romney lost the election, he won the white vote and he only lost by 2.8 per cent. Ford won a landslide by any estimation among a supposedly more enlightened electorate.

It would be comforting to say, as so many do, that it was the result of "monied interests" or the "right-wing" media (the same media that the right says is a "left-wing" media), but that simply does not withstand a critical look. And these were clearly free and fair elections in a way that would matter to the outcome. As to notions that money "buys" elections, that is historically false, and in the Canadian context is rendered absurd by a variety of restrictions. Ford did not win because of money, he won because of anger. Not the anger of the 1 per cent, but the anger of a generation of white males who feel that women, non-whites and the poor are robbing them of their other historic and empowering privilege: the privilege of being a white male.

The reality is that much of the white, male working and middle-class voted for Ford because they liked what he said and did. They liked his views of gays and women, and they liked his total unwillingness to try to understand the points-of-view of those outside of his narrow reality. They liked that his narrative was simple, claimed to be on the "outside", and was old-fashioned and angry, as that is how they perceive themselves. They liked that he presented himself as a bulwark against modernity and inclusion because these voters do not like modernity and inclusion.

Modernity and inclusion, regardless of class, does not really work out for the group who has historically benefited, no matter what their class, educational or income background, from knowing that they had a predominance socially due to the simple fact that they were born white or male. And this predominance is not ancient history; it still exists.

Historically in the Canadian context there is no question this is true. We like, as Canadians, to pat ourselves on the back  and feel good about how much "better" we are than Americans, though often this difference seems to come down to some pride in health care reforms that happened a generation ago or the fact that we apparently play hockey well.

We chose to forget, and are not reminded, that our history, with a few small exceptions, is every bit as racist and assimilationist as the history of the United States. Canada also has a long history of appalling exclusionist immigration policies (including policies that helped to lead Jews into Nazi gas chambers), systemic racism against Asians and people of colour and a basically genocidal attitude toward the Aboriginal and First Nations peoples. On the issues of the rights of women, our policies and histories are different from the US in only incidental ways. And, given our federal government, these become more incidental as you read this article.

Whites generally, and white men more specifically, benefited from this way of doing things, and are largely in denial of the fact that they did. For the entirety of our history, and until very recently, the overwhelming bulk of our business, political, media and even union leaders were male and white, as were those in every industrial or other profession that made a real income. This is a demonstrable and historic fact.

And this was not true due to any effort on their part. It was due to the simple fact that they were white and male. They had to do nothing else to have a greater social status than those who were not. Equality of opportunity, in so far as it existed, existed only within this context. It existed only for white men.

This has, of course, finally begun to change. And nowhere, nominally, more than in Toronto. But these very changes have led whites and men to vote as a block, even when these votes run counter to their own apparent class interests. While it is true that many non-whites and women also voted for Ford, or for Romney or Harper, they did not do so as a block.

White males, of all classes, in both Canada and the United States do increasingly vote as a block. And they vote for reaction. They are the ultimate special interest group. They have a special interest in preserving the centuries of power that they have been granted.

This, if you are wondering, is why the comment pages of the Sun and National Post, as well as the internet at large, are so full of seething white male anger and hate. They see the possibility of eclipse on the horizon, of actually having to fend for themselves on equal footing for the first time in Canadian history, and they are terrified.

That is fundamentally why Rob Ford won, and may yet win again, despite his obvious failure as a mayor.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sky fall: The collapse of the Toronto condo market and the new non-productive economy

Pity the poor Toronto Mr. Christie's workers.

A factory in business from just after the Second World War, producing baked goods in a west-end Toronto community since 1948, that is now due to be closed. Over 500 well-paying jobs to be lost.

While the closure has been extensively reported on, the fact that it is occurring after a Mitt Romney/ Bain Capital-like takeover has been less discussed.

"Mondelez Canada, who became owners of the factory after the North American split of Kraft Foods Inc. operations earlier this month, made the closure announcement Thursday afternoon to workers."
Mondelez has stated that:
"As previously announced, Kraft Foods Inc. plans to spin-off its North American grocery business, to be named Kraft Foods Group, Inc., at 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 1, 2012.  Following the spin-off, Kraft Foods Inc. will be renamed Mondelez International, Inc. As our results show, we've significantly changed the trajectory of our business to deliver sustainable, profitable growth."
Given that they owned it for such a short period, it is hard not to think that Mondelez Capital took over the property with the intent to shut it down and to, as they have now openly stated, attempt to sell the property to developers who hope to build condominiums there.

And one has to question the veracity of this comment: “This is a difficult decision, given the role this facility has played within our organization and in the community for 64 years,” said Alvaro Cuba, vice-president of operations for Mondelez Canada in a news release given that it is obviously not true.

Yet, they have made this cynical move just as the condominium market is collapsing in Toronto, and as the city is facing a very likely housing bubble burst. According to the Globe and Mail, "Sales of new condos fell to 3,317 in the latest quarter, the research firm said. In the first nine months of the year, sales slipped to 14,156, and are on track to close out the year with a 35-per-cent decline from last year’s record level of 28,190."

This makes them, in a sense, a metaphor for the final demise of Toronto's productive tradition, and its transformation into a highly polarized community of those who can actually afford to live here and the underclass that gets by serving them.

A generation ago South Etobicoke had several unionized factories that formed the basis of an industrial economy. There was the massive Goodyear Tire Factory, Crown Cork and Seal, and others that existed in New Toronto and Long Branch and that sustained self-contained communities as a result. I remember, as a young man, working security as they closed out Crown Cork and Seal. Going around the empty plant, seeing the empty train stalls and the deconstructed assembly lines. Row after row of empty lockers of the workers who had lost their jobs.

All of these, with a handful of exceptions, closed in the late '80s and early '90s. This had the predictable effect in that it totally destroyed the community that they had been employing people in. South Etobicoke went from a "union town" to a district infamous (to a degree unfairly) as a centre of street prostitution, drug abuse and abandoned storefronts.

Mondelez Capital moves in and yet more jobs are lost to facilitate the farce of the Toronto condo bubble.

Mondelez Capital will now seek to build condos on the graveyards of these jobs, even though the towers they build will likely stand empty for a very long time... if they ever get built.
There is a terrible sadness to this.

Hundreds of people will be thrown out of work, losing jobs that payed well above minimum wage, to see their factory raised to the ground in the hope of attracting yet more members of the lower middle-class to buy empty buckets of sky in a declining housing market.

While this is depressing, what is even more tragic is the realization that this transition is now an ideological and societal fact. And that, fundamentally, no one cares. We have created an ideological space where, somehow, we make believe that we can build real communities without the benefit of real jobs. An hegemony where everyone is middle-class... and where everyone succeeds if they try... despite the obvious reality that no one is actually succeeding.

They are subsisting off of debt.

The Christie's workers will enter into a job "market" where the most "left-wing" political party in the Ontario legislature is talking about "rewarding" the small business "job creators" who "create" the lowest paying non-union jobs in the province. They can hope for no help at all.

They are also almost certain to make less money when they do find jobs. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes: "The average wage paid to Canadians has not kept up with inflation. Real average wages declined by 0.6 per cent between 2009 -- the trough of the recession -- and 2011, from $23.11 to $22.99. That may not sound like much, but that’s because the bottom half of the wage distribution losing ground faster than the top half."

That is assuming that they even find jobs. As the same report notes: "It is true that there are 820,000 more jobs now than in the middle of the Great Recession, but there are still 1.4 million people looking for work -- a number that is about 25 per cent higher than before the crisis started, and not steadily declining."

Here in the city of Toronto the dichotomy is very clear.

Toronto's declining industrial base has meant that the city is a study in contrast. There are many people who are very well off. But there are also a huge number that are just getting by in the retail or service sector, are poor, or are unwilling to admit they are poor due to the fact that they came to Toronto to "succeed."

There is also a stunningly large "middle-class" whose lives revolve around houses they bought that they likely could not afford.

The question ultimately becomes, who will buy these spaces of sky that are being built?

Now that the market is in free-fall, Toronto can expect a serious re-shift. This is an increasingly significant question as a very large number of people are employed in the highly government subsidized construction and real estate industries that have fueled Toronto's economy for a decade. If these jobs disappear, if the condo bubble continues to free fall, where does Toronto stand?

And yet new units are being built even as the market cools.

Can our communities look forward to a Blade Runner-like future of empty, half-finished, and half-completed monuments to our own folly?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Feedback loops, austerity & Tim Hudak's Ontario

Many of us, no doubt, have begun to hear about "positive feedbacks" or "feedback loops" over the last few weeks. This has been in regard to the increasingly alarming ecological situation that we all globally face with the far more rapid than anticipated melting of the arctic permafrost and the release of methane into the atmosphere that this is causing.

The "positive feedback" consists of the fact that, as methane gets released, it acts as a greenhouse gas and drives up global temperatures. This increase in temperatures causes greater polar melting which, in turn, releases more methane. After a certain point the cycle becomes self-perpetuating and irreversible and its effects become more consequential as the cycle unfolds. In this case, of course, in truly catastrophic ways.

If, as some climatologists feel, a "runaway" feedback loop has actually begun, then the best that we can hope for is to mitigate its consequences. There will be absolutely nothing we can do to undo or stop them.

Oddly, and ultimately for analogous socioeconomic reasons,  there is a similar process at work in many advanced capitalist economies. These economies, due to self-perpetuating consequences that are the result of tax-cuts, austerity measures and a societal propensity to accumulate debt to offset and finance a decline in production that corresponded with an increase in consumption, are now facing an unprecedented period of perpetual stagnation, gradual decline and persistent systemic risk, in addition to dramatically increased social inequality and instability,  despite the reality that most of them remain nominally very "wealthy".

If they slip into a period of  rapid decline due to the collapse of one-or-another speculative  sector of their economy, countries can descend into an economic situation where the systemic risk is realized and where a downward spiral becomes basically irreversible as long as the fundamental market and capitalist conditions that triggered it continue.

The most obvious component, and the easiest to demonstrate, of economic "feedback loops" is what could be termed the "austerity loop". The austerity loop, which has been an ongoing process in parts of Europe for several years now, is relatively simple. Due to the increasingly speculative (as opposed to productive) nature of the Western capitalist economy, many Western economies were experiencing highly inflated "growth" due to financial "paper-tiger" empires and other non-productive "stimulus" that bankrolled the ability of various governments to maintain lifestyles that had no basis in national production (in capitalist terms). When this financial bubble burst, these same governments were unable to stem the tide of the burst without either abandoning the system that had led to it in the first place, (which, of course, they did not do) or by seeking to keep the system in place by attempting to offset the now disastrous debts that they were facing by adopting austerity measures to allegedly placate international financial concerns and lenders.

These austerity measures generally consisted of massive cuts to social spending, to the numbers of government employees and to the wages of those who kept their jobs. They also usually included deep cuts to infrastructure spending. The primary, and worst examples of this are Greece and Spain.

In all cases, needless to say, the "pain" of austerity was felt almost entirely by those in the economy that had had the least to do with the conditions that led to it: the working and lower middle-classes.

These initial austerity cuts, as widespread as they were, had entirely foreseeable consequences that were, ironically, the opposite of their intent. They directly resulted in lowering, not raising, the social wealth as a whole and the money available to government. The reasons for this are obvious. Rather than placating foreign financial concerns, the cuts meant that citizens had less money to spend, less wages to pay taxes on and that national businesses and government departments received fewer projects and less government subsidy both directly and indirectly (such as workers being hired to pave roads, issue birth certificates, maintain historic sites, etc.). Lower wages and fewer jobs meant less socially disposable income, leading to less spending by citizens, leading in turn to more business failures, yet lower wages and yet fewer jobs. This had a further depressing effect on the economies in question, and the cycle repeated, getting worse with each wave of austerity and its consequences.

With every round of austerity measures, the same financial concerns whose confidence was supposed to be restored by the measures,  ended up lowering the credit ratings of the countries in question, thereby exacerbating and accelerating the very process which austerity was supposed to prevent.

Austerity measures compounded the problem, they did not alleviate it. They acted as a positive feedback mechanism.

In the case of the U.K., where the austerity measures were entirely unwarranted and "preemptive", they, in fact, have induced a recession, and the economy has now undergone three quarters of  GDP contraction. The U.K.'s GDP is projected to shrink by 0.7 per cent this year. Still, the U.K.'s Conservative PM David Cameron has vowed to stay the course on policies that are manifestly hurting the economy, not to mention the citizens of his country.

The illusions and ideological blinders of  neo-liberal politicians are so great, that they cannot accept that the models they hold dear are false. Akin to those who deny climate change, they deny the economic outcomes of their theories in action over the last thirty years.

The same process may soon be coming into play in Ontario courtesy of our own Tories, very much inspired by Cameron, despite the results "across the pond".

Now, as the province's economy was just beginning to show some signs of recovery from the 2008 North America wide government stimulus bailouts, a government intervention that obviously prevented economic collapse and that should have put an end to the ideas of austerity and unregulated, "free market," Chicago School economics forever, we find instead that governments continue to play into the fallacies of the failed models.

It is bad enough that the Ontario Liberals have set the process in motion by shifting the focus from economic recovery to deficit fighting and by implementing the first steps of austerity with wage freezes and  setting the ideological tone through the commissioning of the Drummond Report, which was little more than a blueprint for social collapse.

Much worse, the Tories have recently released an economic plan which is basically guaranteed, despite its title "Paths to Prosperity: An Agenda for Growth", to stall, if not reverse economic growth, especially should it be implemented to coincide with the possible collapse of the housing bubble in Canada.

The plan calls for the reduction of ALL government spending by 10% outside of health and education (allegedly), which means the removal of billions of dollars in direct stimulus from the economy. It promises further "tax relief", despite the clear, and easily demonstrable fact that not only does "tax relief" not create jobs, it also necessitates greater spending cuts that act as a brake on growth.

The Tories would "support a mandatory public sector wage freeze -- saving Ontario $2 billion over two years." What they fail to mention is that this means removing $2 billion from the pockets of citizens and consumers, (and public sector workers are citizens and consumers) and thus directly from the economy. It also means that these citizens will have $2 billion less in income to pay taxes on; an unfortunate side-effect to wage freezes that the Liberals are already running into.

In addition to removing this $2 billion from the economy, they would further remove an additional $2.5 billion by ending "corporate welfare." But, despite the seemingly leftist overtones of this slogan, stealing a phrase popularized by NDP leader David Lewis in the 1970s, what they are proposing is the massive slashing of subsidies that will unquestionably lead to the slashing of jobs and closing of plants, businesses and, in some cases, the demise of entire communities.

Yet somehow we are to understand that the cumulative withdrawal of billions and billions of dollars from the economy that is outlined above, all to take place in a very short period of time, will actually result in economic and job growth?

Further, rather farcically, during his recent press conference on how his plan would create jobs, Hudak said "We actually will have to have fewer people working in government...There's no doubt about that.", presumably indicating his firm belief that the province has to throw people out of work to ensure that they can then find work.

The Tory plan is also explicit in its commitment to suppress wages generally, taking yet more disposable income out of the economy, by calling for dramatic and very broad anti-union measures in the private sector; measures that he openly admits are inspired by American anti-union laws. He advocates the end of the very notion of public sector unionism with his ridiculous proposal to open many basic government services up to competitive bidding, presumably in the fantasy that the private sector can deliver these essential government services efficiently with the cut corners and costs and the low wages it would take to do so and still turn a profit. Profit being the basic motive force of private enterprise after all.

Their platform pits public and private sector workers against each other by stating, entirely disingenuously,  that "it’s only fair to ask public sector workers to share in the sacrifices their private sector colleagues have already been making" without noting that the "sacrifices" of the private sector workers came through recessionary economics and the appalling fiscal irresponsibility and greed of the private sector. The two have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and the "sacrifices" of private sector workers, (lost jobs, lower wages and so on), are what need to be reversed to create true economic growth.

The notion that the public sector should copy the proven incompetence and inability of the private sector in providing stable jobs and living wages would seem at best misguided.

Of course, despite all of its populist rhetoric,  Hudak's policies would also  accelerate inequality in Ontario. Wage suppression, anti-unionism, public sector job cuts, deregulation and deep cuts to social spending and social services are not only certain to increase the economic instability and threats faced by workers and some elements of the middle class, they will also directly benefit the upper middle-class and the wealthy and many, though not all, corporations and their profits in the short term.

Given that millions of Ontario residents are a couple of paycheques away from missing credit card and mortgage payments, and given the government created and backed housing bubble and personal debt crisis, the Tory plan to "create" growth and jobs by taking wages, benefits and either the actuality of or possibility of union rights out of the pockets of these same citizens is a recipe for disaster.

While McGuinty may have got the ball rolling, Hudak's vision, if implemented, would set the austerity loop loose. Once unleashed, Greece and Spain are only a housing bubble burst away.