I appreciate this article from Education Week, titled "We're teaching consent all wrong,"
The key idea from the article is this:
Instead, researchers and educators offer an alternative: Teach consent as a life skill—not just a sex skill—beginning in early childhood, and begin discussing consent and communication in the context of relationships by 5th or 6th grades, before kids start seriously thinking about sex.
I like this because I see it both as a parent and as a teacher. As a parent, I often see my children test one another's boundaries and do things to one another without the other's consent: one might arbitrarily take control of a video game, or dump leftovers onto someone else's plate at dinner, or drop something in the other's room that they don't want anymore. At school, students take one another's books, or write on one another's pages, or talk to another student when they clearly want some peace and quiet. None of these issues are sexual, but nonetheless they're matters of consent. If someone doesn't want that food, or someone doesn't want you writing on their page, the perpetrator is breaking trust and consent.
One of the issues I've seen in the consent conversation, however, is crossover with other terms: "Bullying," for example, often gets used in situations where no bullying is taking place. Perhaps people are doing things you don't want them to, but they're not inherently bullying the other person. Conflating "nonconsensual" and "bullying" muddies the water too much to be useful. The Venn Diagram crosses over—bullying cannot take place consensually—but they're far from one and the same.
Does a parent bully when they need to get their child to attend a family gathering for example? The child may not want to do it, and the parent may need to coerce them, but it's not quite bullying, not quite a matter of non-consent.
Just as we often conflate non-consensual actions with bullying, we also conflate it with coercion. I think we need to be a little careful about that. Somebody can do something without consent, but also not necessarily participate in coercion. Many non-consent stories, it seems, don't involve coercion as much as they involve terrible communication.
Consent is always complicated. We'd like to think that there are little cues we can take to make it simple, but it's always complex. It's a continual process. It demands good communication. It gets messy as we reiterate it in our memories. Whether in parenting or education or in sexuality, there's always more nuance than any maxim can handle.
So I support the idea of teaching consent as a general life skill. Even when it makes life harder.
It appears the Canada Food Guide has finally come of age and is basing its ideas on science, not lobbyists.
I don't have the expertise to add much to the conversation. I'm not a nutritionist or scientist. But I do my best to eat well, or at least know what I should do to eat well. And I'm glad to see a more scientific approach to a topic that often seems so nebulous.
Although I've always been interested in food an nutrition, since the old Canada Food Guide was drilled into me in my school days, I've enjoyed hearing the skeptical approach to food research. For example, this article from Neurologica describes some of the ways nutrition research often doesn't make the cut.
Part of this general interest in nutrition, or my more focused approach to it, stems from how much nutritional misinformation my ex-wife had to navigate when she had her own medical emergency. We had numerous people telling us conflicting advice about how to manage the sickness through nutrition, but their advice constantly contradicted what the agency's nutritionist told us. All the mixed messaging highlighted just how contentious food nutrition is as a field.
There's also the matter of opportunism. Food nutrition is one thing, but people's desire to capitalize on the market for diet fads and whatnot. I get suspicious of anything with corporate backing, anything where somebody can capitalize on those who are seeking a solution.
If the Globe and Mail summary is to be believed, the new Canada Food Guide breaks from the recommendations of the meat an milk lobbies and instead tries to focus on science. Leslie Beck, the author of the article embedded above, writes,
Health Canada has committed to stay on top of the evidence to ensure that our food guidance is continually relevant. We shouldn’t have to wait another 12 years for an update.
And again, from another source,
I don't think there's much to say about it. All I can say is that these reports completely back up the conclusions I've made for myself. Analytics on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even my own web hosting platform Weebly, mean next to nothing. You sign up, you get a bunch of numbers, but does that mean real people have engaged? Nuh-uh.
Just because the Internet gives you a number about you doesn't mean that number means anything.
Just becaue you've seen it on the Internet doesn't mean it's true, even if it's a number about you.
This article annoys me.
The article is an obscenely easy and predictable read. In response to Rashida Tlaib's and subsequently Kim Campbell's use of the word "motherf**ker" on Twitter in reference to Donald Trump, Ambrosino calls for decency and civility on the grounds that we will be more "kind" as a result. And to a point, I agree.
But the article hinges on a false equivalency that makes the premise irrelevant.
I think it's clearest when Ambrosino flippantly writes,
Others have thrown their support behind using the foul language, on the grounds that the President himself has destroyed any sense of decorum in U.S. politics – and therefore anything goes, linguistically speaking.
The general thrust of his argument is in that "therefore anything goes" phrase. This simply isn't the case. Just because Trump has called Mexican immigrants "rapists" doesn't mean others have taken it up; we don't hear politicians use words like "motherfucker" and "pussy" on a regular basis; we don't see politicians creating pithy, abusive nick-names for their opponents. Clearly, linguistic decency still stands tall in politics; Trump is still very much the exception to the rule.
When Ambrosino equates the use of "motherfucker" to "Trumpian," he misidentifies the problem with Trump's language use in general: its vagueness. Trump's language is consistently unclear. Frustratingly unclear. Obscenely unclear. Trumpian language, crude or not, hinges on its casual, childish, mushiness. If he can choose a more simple word, he will. If that word is a crude or rude word, he'll choose that.
This video does a good job of explaining "Trumpian" language.
Some people use crude language with precision. Trump does not. In this context, the word "motherfucker" is not the problem. Don't give Trump that much credit.
For the last few months, paring down my possessions has been on my mind. I've always liked having stuff, and I've always carried a lot of things with me in life. But lately, the sheen seems to be dying away on some of my collecting habits and I actually catch myself thinking to myself, "Maybe that... or that... or that... I don't need it anymore."
A few weeks ago, I went through loads of old documents I'd been carrying with me and I shredded loads of them, saving only the things I thought I might need in the future. I had bought a loveseat a few months ago, but it filled my space too much and I sold it this weekend, not thinking to replace it with anything. I've found myself looking at certain "collectibles" and wondering why I've collected them. What insecurity led me to think these Funko Pop figurines? When will I ever watch these DVDs? When was the last time I looked through these hockey cards? It's a classic list of male-collector stuff.
However, to be honest, these aren't the things that really cause clutter. Most of these collections are sorta' packed away in one way or another. The Funko Pops and DVDs are in drawers; the hockey cards, coin collections, and stuff like that are in bins; the CDs and records are on dedicated shelves; the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 are in bins, waiting for a time when they can have their own dedicated space. These collections, the classic things that would be "easiest" to get rid of, aren't causing the mayhem in my life. And I really enjoy having them in my life for now (except for the Funko Pops. I feel like I really gave in to a consumerist craze to pick those up. I think... I think they need to go.)
My lack of desire to throw things away was a tension in my marriage. I didn't think we had too much stuff, but my ex thought we did. It was a constant battle between us in regards to the messes that would appear in the house, since most of the "stuff" could be linked to me. And I still think back on many of the things we disposed of with a little pain in my heart, mainly because I felt I often had to re-buy the item later on, usually at a lower quality. However, this was largely a matter of the circumstances of how we were raised: she moved around constantly in her childhood, so she got used to disposing of things; I spent the first two decades of my life in the same house, so I expected to put something somewhere and return to it in a couple years if it was useful. It made it so we both looked at the same types of objects with different eyes. And as we moved from house to house, many of those objects never found a tidy place. I still carry some of them with me, and still they haven't found a tidy place.
There are odds and ends, things that I acquired with the intent to use them, but they never found a place: a small television antennae, for example, or my heavy duty rain gear, which I haven't used since I moved into an apartment. There's the seasonal stuff that sometimes goes without use for a season or two: a basketball I bought when I coached basketball in my first year of teaching, for instance, or maybe my squash and tennis racquets. There are things that simply won't be used as long as I live in a rented apartment: decorations for the walls that haven't been mounted since our first house, for example. And all the odds and ends that a junk drawer can handle. Chances are a lot of these things could disappear without me hurting too much for it.
The most discouraging clutter is the stuff that I love, but it doesn't have a space to "belong:" the darkroom equipment, the musical instruments, the tools. These collections of objects are things that bring joy to my life, but in my one-bedroom apartment set up for a family of three, they might as well be clutter. One day, I might have a hobby room for them to belong in, but for now they live in easily accessible, yet cluttery corners of the house: my bass tends to sit beside the stereo; there's an accordion beside a bookshelf; the cameras sit in a tote bins on the makeshift pseudo-pantry shelf. What I'm saying is, the things I love the most, since I want them available, and since they don't have a space of their own, are the things that cause the most untidiness in my living space. What's up with that? What makes that fair?
The zeal to clean up our lives has Capitalist consequences. Some people can make loads of cash off of our desire our simplify our lives. This article describes a television show that capitalizes on it, and programs like Hoarders use shame and disgust to make people feel like they have too much stuff.
But sometimes minimalism, no matter what the gurus tell you, no matter what the meditation apps and Instagram-ready aspirations tell you, is more a product of your class than your state of mind. If you can afford to store all your stuff in the places where they would belong, if you can afford to rebuy things down the line, if you can afford to upsize and downsize as you need to, then you can be happy.
Now that I think of it, though, it's a matter of the space you have. I look at all the "stuff" I have right now and I realize that, if I had a typical three-bedroom place for a three-person family, my home would look barren. I have three people's worth of stuff in a one-bedroom space, and I don't have a storage locker for tools and nicknacks. And I won't be able to afford higher rent any time soon. So I need to come to peace with a bit of the chaos that I already have.
I don't have an aspirationally-friendly home: my bed sits in the living room and there's a wall of Rubbermaid totes. But for me, well, it works.
At the same time, though, there's certainly some junk that can just... go. Maybe even today.
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