Archive for December, 2012

A general observation: most advertisements, sports teams, fashion brands, and movies are about as culturally sensitive as a decolonization is easy. Which is to say, not very. That much will be clear to anyone that’s read the fantastic blog, Native Appropriations. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly suggest you check it out. But I got to thinking the other day, what would it be like if your average market industry was a force for decolonization? We’re a ways off that yet, but, hey, what’s the harm in dreaming. With apologies to Molson, here’s an ad I’m still waiting for: (more…)


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About a month ago a pair of white South Africans ignited an international discussion about race and responsibility when they printed 10 t-shirts with the words “I benefited from apartheid” written boldly across the chest.

Those 10 were distributed at an art installation and were spoken for so quickly that another 30 were quickly produced. The gesture, a response to reactionary criticism of a supermarket’s hiring policy, elicited all manner of responses. Some suggested the t-shirt designers were motivated by a misplaced guilt; others felt they were unnecessarily digging up old history better forgotten; still others felt they were appropriating a struggle that whites had little place in.

One thing was undeniable: those 40 t-shirts prompted a debate about race and apartheid, guilt and responsibility. Uncharacteristically, the debate centered on the place of whites within post-apartheid South Africa, asking uncomfortable questions that seldom get asked. To what extent do whites today remain beneficiaries of the apartheid system? To what extent are whites responsible for its ongoing effects? (more…)

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The Canadian government’s decision to spend some $28 million on War of 1812 commemorations in a time of apparent fiscal crisis elicited all manner of responses.  For some it represents a baffling use of resources. Others question the prudence of commemorating a forgotten war given the concurrent milestone anniversaries of institutions like Parks Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, CBC Radio and Medicare. There are also those who herald the 1812 commemorations as a long overdue investment into our country’s history.

There is some truth in each of those responses, but what strikes me above all is a sense that we have lost an opportunity here. (more…)

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Aside from Stuart McLean, I can think of few people capable of distilling a town’s essence to mere words, and I am certainly not one of them. Nonetheless, pressed as I am with the choice between fumbling my feelings towards a dear city that I have just left, and saying nothing at all, the former seems immeasurably more desirable.

It occurs to me that the songs and stories that best express what it means to be in Halifax or Nova Scotia are the ones about moving away from here. Songs like Farewell to Nova Scotia, Joel Plaskett’s Love This Town [see below], Stan Rogers’ The Idiot; books like Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief; films like Donald Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road. I don’t know what it says about a place that those are the stories that resonate. It might say more about me. (more…)

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