Slow Wednesday nostalgia file

Back when the earth was young, and I still believed that music mattered, I used to have a favorite song. If you had asked what I thought the probability was of anyone producing a worthwhile cover of that song, I would have said zero. But then I came across this:

(Hint: give it until at least 3:28)

Okay, off to my departmental Xmas party now.… Continue reading

The Ghomeshi Affair and the Ethical Power of Consent

The internet is abuzz with reactions to Jian Ghomeshi’s dismissal from the CBC. At this point, it is unclear what exactly Ghomeshi did to whom and how whatever he did could be grounds for his dismissal. There are allegations from three anonymous women that Ghomeshi violently assaulted them during sex and a fourth claims he told her at work: “I want to hate fuck you.” Ghomeshi’s response has been to claim that the allegations of non-consensual ‘rough sex’ are false and that those making the allegations are liars. He does not dispute that he has engaged in BDSM practices with women but he insists that the activities that he has engaged in have all been fully consensual and thus are above reproach. Brenda Cossman, a professor of law at University of Toronto, has already pointed out that in Canadian law consent to violence is not always sufficient to immunize oneself against a criminal charge of assault.… Continue reading

Maximes pour le blogueur contemporain

Dans la quantité monstrueuse de mémoires, thèses, manuscrits et autres travaux universitaires que je dois évaluer cet été, je suis retombé sur les célèbres maximes de Grice pour une « conversation coopérative ». Je n’ai pu m’empêcher de penser que le blogueur contemporain aurait tout intérêt à respecter lesdites maximes, du moins si son but est de contribuer à améliorer la qualité de notre conversation démocratique. Le blogueur dont le but est strictement de raisonner de façon stratégique, de marquer des points, de caricaturer la position de ses adversaires idéologiques, et ainsi de suite n’a que faire des ces normes communicatives.

Paul Grice a été l’un des philosophes du langage les plus influents dans l’univers philosophique anglo-américain du XXe siècle. L’histoire s’en souviendra entre autres pour son « principe de coopération conversationnelle » et les maximes qui en découlent. Ce principe doit idéalement gouverner les discussions visant la coopération entre les locuteurs.… Continue reading

Mindfulness in an Unjust World

Mindfulness meditation has become very popular. Its exotic Buddhist origins combined with the mounting evidence produced by Western science that meditation is (mostly because of brain plasticity) good for us, makes it very appealing. Many therapists are now designing new mindfulness-based cognitive and behavioural therapies, and some physicians now recommend it to their patients. Mindfulness-based programs are used to treat depression, anxiety, chronic stress, chronic pain, and so on.

Being mindful is being able to focus our attention, moment by moment, on stimuli such as one’s breath or bodily sensations and, in doing so, to step out of the constant flow of thoughts and feelings that inhabits our mind under normal conditions. This is why many think that meditation “quiets the mind”. It is recognized that thoughts and emotions will always irrupt, but such mental states should be welcomed in a non-judgemental manner and objectified, i.e. observed as external phenomena by the reflexive and compassionate self that we are when we practice mindfulness meditation.… Continue reading

Débat sur le franglais: miser sur le pouvoir d’attraction du français

Ce n’est pas d’hier qu’une frange du mouvement nationaliste québécois se lamente de l’état de la culture québécoise et s’inquiète de son sort. Les penseurs phares du néo-nationalisme des années 1960 comme les historiens de l’« École de Montréal » ou des auteurs comme Pierre Vadeboncoeur et Fernand Dumont ont alimenté ce diagnostic pessimiste quant au devenir de l’identité québécoise. Dans un essai publié en 2000, j’ai consacré un chapitre au « nationalisme mélancolique » québécois. L’éventuelle disparition ou folklorisation du français–la « lousianistation » du Québec–est le plus souvent le point focal du discours sombre, et parfois catastrophiste, sur l’avenir de la culture québécoise francophone.

Comme je suis de bonne humeur après une agréable semaine de vacances au Québec, je n’ai pas lu les textes d’opinion sur les Dead Obies, le « franglais » et les menaces de « créolisation » et d’« anglicisation ». Tout ce que je sais vient de ce texte de Marc Cassivi partagé hier par plusieurs de mes contacts sur Facebook.… Continue reading

Three Faces of Canadian Homophobia

Thankfully most Canadians find the homophobic bigotry of people like Rob Ford as repugnant and silly as Ford himself. Of course, it remains disturbing that polls suggest that some 20% of Toronto Area voters seemed prepared to vote for Ford even though he has been disgraced and discredited along so many so many dimensions it is hard to keep track. Perhaps some of these people are bamboozled by Ford’s insistence that he is ‘spendaphobic’ rather than ‘homophobic’. But in wake of Ford’s well-known refusal to participate in Pride celebrations, his boozed and drug fueled rants and his petty (and apparently sober) refusal to support a study of homeless shelter space for LGBT youth Ford has become the ugly face of Canadian homophobia. Ford’s variety of homophobia, replete with familiar hateful epithets and evident anxiety about with even distant association with anything vaguely gay, is easy to dismiss and mock. Indeed, Ford himself is such a buffoon that he provides an unwitting performative self-refutation of this variety of homophobia.… Continue reading

Some Half-Baked Thoughts on the Economics of City-Life after Returning to Montreal after a Week in Paris

One of the great fringe benefits of my job is that I often get invited to some pretty great cities for work. I’ve just returned to Montreal from a week in Paris. I love Paris. What I love most about Paris are its neighborhoods. Walk a few kilometers outside the tourist center, and you will find fantastic inner city areas that each have their distinctive character and identity. For a long time, I used to hang out in the 14th arrondissement (intra muros Paris, the Paris that lies inside its internal ring road, le Périphérique is divided up into 20 boroughs). These days, I am more likely to try to find a place in the 20th, which is one of Paris’ most riotously multicultural neighborhoods. On this recent trip, I watched Chile win a World Cup match in a Chilean bar, watched Brazil triumph in a Brazilian restaurant, and don’t even get me started about what happened when Algeria beat South Korea!… Continue reading

Is Quebec more left-wing than the rest of Canada?

There is a widespread perception that Quebec is more left-wing, or more “social-democratic” than the rest of Canada. Indeed, one branch of the sovereignty movement suggests that a commitment to social justice requires separation from Canada, because English Canada encumbers Quebec, preventing it from realizing its vision of a more egalitarian society. (It is because of this belief that many people in Quebec think of separatism as a natural extension of left-wing political commitments.)

This is an illusion. The part of Canada that I grew up in – Saskatchewan – was far more left-wing than Quebec has ever been. And it never once occurred to anyone that you couldn’t have “socialism in one province” (or that being a member of the Canadian federation in any way impeded the realization of the essentially socialist vision that was at the time predominant).

What makes Quebec distinct is the fact that, over the past 30 years, the Quebec political system has been tilted to the left.… Continue reading