Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Day 16. June 21, 2014. Sabarthes to Le Mas-d'Azil. 13 kms

Only in Canada, eh?

The pendulum swings from right to left,
It seeks the centre to adopt;
But when at last it comes to rest,
It is because the clock has stopped.

It was a short walk this morning, 13 kilometres along the road to Maz-d'Azil.

I ate lunch today under a shady tree in a paddock beside the road. All seemed still, yet there was constant motion all around me. A hawk circled overhead. Butterflies of different hues fluttered in the distance. Flies buzzed about my face. And on the hill in front of me, the trees, all huddled together and hustled by the wind, made great sweeping movements from right to left and back again. It was so peaceful.  I reflected on the absurdity I had come upon the night before.

Taking advantage of the Wifi to catch up with the Globe and Mail, and finding nothing on our celebrated Toronto mayor, I had read an article by Margaret Wente. Most of the time I agree with her as she exposes the absurdities of Canadian politics. It was the headline that took my attention:

Welcome to Vancouver's gender-neutral pronoun wars

Were we not in the heat of summer, I would have checked my watch to see whether the date was April first. And a good April fool's story it was.The Vancouver School Board has passed a policy that recognizes the needs of transgendered kids. It allows them to go to either the male or female washroom, and allows them to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns instead of he or she, him or her, his or her.

Today, a little girl's comment to the teacher that I recall vividly from First Bubs at Claremont Practising School more than 60 years ago would sound like this:

"Look at Tommie, Miss. Ze's wet zyr pants. Take zem to the lav."

Not only is the notion absurd, but the choice of the gender neutral pronouns is foolish as well. It sounds like Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

I wondered whether this was a movement led by the parents of the children concerned or by leftist feminists fighting their cause on the pretext of helping the children.

To me it is almost incredible that such an absurd idea could even be considered by the School Board. But I can imagine what happened. The notion would have been pushed by a very small minority, and everyone else in the room would have been pinching themselves and thinking, can this be really happening, but refraining from pointing out its absurdity for fear of being labelled intolerant.

I'll leave you to reflect on whether the policy will benefit or actually harm a kid who may be having doubts about zyr sexual identity.

I am wary of inadvertently offending people. In the marketplace a week or so ago, I saw a fellow of diminutive stature belonging to a class of persons traditionally associated with Snow White or Tolkien, but I had to leave him out of my description because I couldn't think of the politically correct term to use. 

Last year, I was rattling on about the English in France who refused to learn French and I unwittingly offended a Scot by lumping him in with the English. I had used the term "Brit" as synonymous with "English".

Now I love Robbie Burns and I regularly eat the haggis. I have walked the West Highland Way in the rain, and I sing along with Kenneth McKellar as I read Ian Rankin and sip my Laphroaig. I love all things Scottish except their weather, and I had no intention of offending. But someone had been offended. I had not got my facts right. I was wrong. I apologized.

But what if it were not my facts that were wrong, but my opinion?

I would be committing an act of micro-aggression -- offending someone without intending to. According to this way of thinking, everyone has the right not to be offended.

We had a case of micro-aggression recently at a Canadian university.  In an attempt to encourage students to swot for their exams, a student union president published a cartoon strip depicting President Obama. It was in no way racist, but someone took offence. The student president was forced to resign and apologize. Only when the student union was ridiculed across Canada, and the black students said they found nothing offensive in the cartoon, was the student president reinstated. I believe he rescinded his apology.

In another case, a teacher was accused of microaggression for giving an unsatisfactory mark to an ESL student in an English class.

In another manifestation of this kind of thinking, a prominent university is replacing its traditional representation on student council, Arts Rep, Science Rep, Engineering Rep, etc, with categories such as First Year Rep, Black Rep (although that is probably not the politically correct term), Gay and Lesbian Rep, Transgendered Rep, Two-Spirited Rep, and so on. If you happen to be a white, second-year Engineering student, you have no representation, and if you complain, the current response is "Check your privilege!" What that means is, "Shut up, you've had it better than us for so long. You've got no right to complain!"

In other universities, students have shouted down speakers whose views they didn't like. Recently, a university had to cancel an invitation to a respected Muslim speaker who was to express her belief that some reform of Islam was necessary. A minority of students would not have let her speak. 

It is ironic, how, in espousing a cause by shouting down their opposition and oppressing free speech, the extreme left is completing the circle and joining hands with the far right.

I am staying tonight in a gite run by the Protestant pastor. Often there are surprises awaiting you in gites and cheap hotels. Usually, taking a shower is a one-handed affair for there is no way of attaching the shower nozzle to the wall, the attachment being broken or long gone. So you have to wash under your arm with one hand like a gorilla, and then switch hands. You can't have a long relaxing shower.

This time, however, I was delighted to see that I could slide the shower onto its fixture on the wall. I settled in for the final stage and turned up the hot water a little. The extra pressure forced the shower off its fixture, whereupon it snaked about in all directions like a chook with its head cut off, if I can mix my metaphors, spraying water everywhere. There was a minor flood on the floor which I had to soak up with the floor mat.

I ventured out in search of a Leffe.

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