The hollywood diversion

There’s a crisis in Ukraine, people continue to die in massive numbers in Syria, there’s a new web virus called “heartbleed” that can access your secure information, and over 190 recently passed away after a ferry crashed in South Korea.

But modern entertainment doesn’t believe important news like this belongs in the mainstream to inform people and foster a more educated worldview.

Sure, turn on the news (not eTalk or Entertainment Tonight- that’s not news) and you’ll get some facts.  The news is how I found out about the four items above, and is how I continue to ground myself in facts rather than frivolous content, like T-Swift’s new groundbreaking haircut.

People in North America are fed so many bits of information per day that the onus is on us to sort through and decide what is important.  So much of that information is irrelevant to our daily lives and distracts us from what we should really be concerned with.

Does the countdown to Kim and Kanye’s super wedding change how we see the world?  Unless you’re a superfan and have pillowcases featuring Kim and Kanye’s faces, I am inclined to say no.  Does reading “stories” about hollywood pregnancies and breakups offer us any information about government decisions and spending?  I really don’t think so.

I could go really far and say that governments use infotainment (the combination of real information and information used to entertain the audience) to divert attention from news that affects us as citizens.  When people are deeply concerned about the royal Prince’s recent outing and how he was considered a ‘bruiser’ by some in attendance, it’s easier to hide the facts.

But instead of calling hollywood a conspiracy, I’ll just say this: don’t let superficial, non-news keep you from asking questions and becoming informed.  Many Canadians still don’t understand the recent Senate scandal or know that Harper is providing 6 fighter jets and about 20 military personnel to a NATO operation in Eastern Europe.

If Canadians become complacent with being fed the “news”, we will lose our capacity to question what is real and what matters.  Don’t lose this skill, or we will lose our democratic advantage of an active and informed citizenry, and the government will go unchecked and unbalanced.

What’s wrong with the university system

Since the dawn of time, the goal of all man kind has been to go to University.

Just kidding, that’s not true.

But our society makes you think it’s true, doesn’t it?

Since kindergarten, I remember being told that we needed to learn certain things “because you won’t succeed in high school/university/life if you don’t.”

In fact, teachers, I definitely did not need to know to calculate variable XYZWKRT (seriously, once the alphabet was introduced into functions I knew I was doomed) to succeed in journalism.  Nor did I need to completely understand the exact definition of existentialism.

People might be giving this a funny look right now, thinking, “This girl’s wack, understanding the practical use of a covalent bond totally helped me get ready for criminology,” but my guess is many graduates of the public school system will agree.  We did our time, were ecstatic to graduate, and completely forgot everything we learned.

Sidebar: Don’t get me totally wrong here, some of what I learned in high school was actually interesting and good for general knowledge (like the origin of the black plague, remind me to never have a pet rat).

And just like the government wanted me to, I continued my educational journey at university.  And, unexpectedly, I got it wrong the first time.

Dropping out of Carleton after 3 weeks made me realize a few things about the brainwashing that occurs in our school system.  We’re taught that we need to have a goal in sight, and if that goal isn’t higher education, we won’t succeed at life.  Because the next step after university, if the chain of preparedness continues, is a career, then retirement, then death.  Lovely.

But how does that make sense?  If we don’t spend thousands of dollars on a degree, we aren’t valuable citizens?  If anything, university graduates pay just as much in taxes and have just as much trouble finding a job as everyone else.  There’s no elite class of citizenry that gets to do only wonderful, affluent, privileged things.  Most of us, anyway, are just trying to get enough money to pay for our pizza and beer.

What is especially brow-furrowing are those who decide to drop thousands of mom and dad’s dollars on a degree they don’t even know what to do with, or isn’t applicable in our vocation-oriented economy.  That’s right, philosophy majors, I’m looking at you.  Congratulations on being able to spit the definition of consequentialism in my face while you keep checking job databases for “philosopher wanted.”

Another sidebar: Again, I’m not trying to imply that our school system, including university, is completely backwards.  Many people who do get applicable, job-oriented degrees have a very successful careers (and therefore, in the government’s eyes, a successful life because the two are synonymous).

What I am trying to imply is that our society has produced a bunch of average people.  Average in brain function, knowledge, aspiration and success.  Because if the ultimate goal for everyone everywhere is to get a degree, get a good job, buy a house, get married, have kids, retire and then die, how does anyone stand out?  How does anyone truly have the possibility to better themselves when these common goals and paths have been entrenched in our everyday lives for years?

What I want is for everyone to look at themselves and really think, am I where I want to be?

Just don’t let the brainwashing institution lead you on a life path that won’t bring you happiness.  I got a second chance to choose what makes me happy, and I am more healthy and feel less average after making that change.  I’m also not trying to be a hypocrite.  I’m currently enrolled in a university degree, but it’s because I truly want to be a journalist for the sake of being a journalist.

When you look around, everyone is the same.  Find something that will make you different.

Growing up Canadian

Canada is really big.

I may be stating the obvious, but our country is truly vast, and not just in a geographical sense.  Canada is immense in culture, character, experience, opportunity, and knowledge.  We, as Canadians, have access to some of the world’s best higher education, have a (relatively) low unemployment percentage, and free health care.  We are known for unique and wonderful things; hockey, maple syrup, multiculturalism, and being polite.

But all of this comes at a cost.

Canadian born youth grow up in Canada with a skewed worldview.  Even the most poverty-stricken Canadians likely can’t relate to the most poverty-stricken Cambodian or AIDS-suffering Zambian.  Immigrants and those who have travelled to developing nations have a sounder idea of Canada’s true affluence, but Canadians as a people have grown complacent in our wealth.

As a journalist, I can comfortably say that there is a lot that I don’t know about the world.  One of the things I have come to realize is that North America is lavish and domineering and narcissistic in the way we treat our planet and global neighbours.  The Washington-based Centre for Global Development came out with their report this past week on the assessment of the environmental protection policies of 27 developed nations and Canada came dead last.

How terrifying is that.

We have an annual GDP of $1,821,445 MILLION dollars, more than the continent of Africa, yet we’re more concerned with Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent separation than with the embarrassing, inexplicable state of our environment.

Yes, Canadians are polite.  Yes we can go to the doctor without having to transfer funds to our bank account, and yes the government subsidizes our education.  But that education is severely lacking.  The government would rather us learn intangible things, like how to properly label a binder, than educate us on the state of the world and how we can make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly proud to be Canadian.  I am a die-hard fan of the Maple Leafs, I’ve accepted that winter is 6 months long, and nothing makes me happier than paying forward a good deed.

But I have been ignorant, and I’m going to change it.  Canada may have free health care, but most of the world doesn’t have health.