Discrimination exists: Against left handed people

One of the most common responses I get when raising awareness of the problems left handed people face (and especially when using the term right handed privilege) is to call this a “first world problem”.

Unfortunately, people are that oblivious.

“First world countries” don’t ostracize people for using their left hand. They don’t call left handed people “witches”. They don’t call use of the left hand “dirty” or “disrespectful”. And most importantly, “first world countries” don’t beat children at home or in schools for using their left hands.

(Mass manufactured products are exported to developing countries, but rarely have left handed options in their design, including software. What happens when people in developing countries see these products? It reinforces the right hand bias: “See? First world countries don’t have left handedness either!” It further “justifies” the mistreatment of people. A “first world problem” is something that only affects “developed nations” e.g. the wi-fi is down.)


A 2013 study by the Smithsonian shows the extent of the problem:

Two-Thirds of the World Still Hates Lefties

For 2/3 of the world’s population, being born left handed is still met with distrust and stigma

By Rose Eveleth

May 17, 2013

There are still some pretty annoying things about being left-handed. But in America, at least, we’ve mostly stopped forcing lefties to learn to use their right hand. That’s not the case everywhere, though. China, for example, claims that less than one percent of students are left-handed. If that were true, it would be strange: the global average of lefties comes in at 10-12 percent. A study in the journal Endeavor recently took on this question: Why are there no left-handers in China? The researchers also looked at India and Islamic countries and discovered that nearly two-thirds of the world’s lefty population faces discrimination.

And for a long time there were all sorts of ways to “retrain” lefties. An article in The Lancet explains the “scientific” rationales used:

The methods used to obtain this result were often tortuous, including tying a resistant child’s left hand to immobilise it. Typical of the reasoning to justify such practices is a 1924 letter to the British Medical Journal endorsing “retraining” of left-handers to write with their right hands, because otherwise the left-handed child would risk “retardation in mental development; in some cases…actual feeble-mindedness”. As late as 1946 the former chief psychiatrist of the New York City Board of Education, Abram Blau, warned that, unless retrained, left-handed children risked severe developmental and learning disabilities and insisted that “children should be encouraged in their early years to adopt dextrality…in order to become better equipped to live in our right-sided world”.

What sort of social stigma are they referring to? Ones that I have experienced myself in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia. I have never been to the United Arab Emirates, but I found this on their official website for Washington, D.C.:

Traveling in a Muslim Country

Food

The act of communal eating is a highly recognized outward expression of friendship in the Middle East.

– Do not eat with your left hand, which is considered unclean.

If someone makes a scene because I touch food with my left hand, I hand them food with the right. As they eat, I tell them my right hand is my toilet hand. Their facial expressions are priceless.

India also views the left hand as the “dirty hand” in the same way as muslim countries do.

How is being left-handed not right?

I remember the day when my mother was dumbfounded to see my daughter (who was then around two years old) invariably using her left hand for most of her activities. My poor mother reminisced the days when she struggled to convince the elders of the house that her daughter (myself) was left-handed and that there was nothing opprobrious about it but she failed miserably. She was sternly advised to change my natural inclination to use the left hand and fearing the repercussions of defying them, she coerced me into making me a right-hander.

[…]

After my hue and cry for the past three years in my family, my daughter has at last been permitted to use her left hand for most of the activities like writing and playing, barring a few like eating and serving. I feel it is very unfair to compel a left-handed child to eat with her right hand as having food is such an important activity of our daily life which is done with our heart and soul, relishing morsel by morsel, but my daughter is pressured and is not able to enjoy her food wholeheartedly. What a punishment for being a left-hander?

Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) published a document called “What Is Witchcraft Abuse?” Left handedness is considered “a sign of witchcraft”. In 2009.

From Radio France International:

African lefties speak out on International Left-Handers Day

For some, they want to promote left-handedness because they weren’t allowed to use their left hand at school. That’s the case for Bernard Bogere Ssenkubuge, the founder of Keep Left Uganda based in Lugazi, outside of Kampala, the capital.

“It is a bit taboo in Uganda to be left handed, because your mother or parents at home would always beat the hand and say, ‘the left hand doesn’t eat’. In school, the teachers will still tap the hand of a child and say, ‘you are not supposed to write with your left hand’. So it is a problem,” he says.

[…]

Dieumerci Nugwaneza, another member of the Rwanda Left-Handers Club in Kigali, says that when he was in school, the teachers never explained how to write, but made them switch their hands.

No Quick Fix: Bias is built into everything

Mass manufacturing is a major problem for left handed people. Very few items outside of musical instruments and sporting goods (or useless junk like guns) are being made specifically for left handed users. Accomodations for the disabled cost far more and benefit fewer people, yet people would file  discrimination suits if there were no accessibility for wheelchair users, the visually impaired, and others with disabilities.

No, left handedness is not a disability, and neither is being a woman.  Is it acceptable that cars are built for the average size male as the driver, not for women?  For pharmaceutical companies to test medicines only on men, leaving women vulnerable to side effects?  Those are wrong and discriminatory towards women, so why isn’t it towards left handed people?

It’s unrealistic to expect left handed versions of large scale and expensive items to be made, such as:

  • photocopiers
  • microwave ovens and other appliances
  • radios (and old televisions with knobs)
  • ATMs at banks
  • turnstiles at stadiums or train stations
  • power tools and industrial equipment

But it is not unreasonable to ask for left handed products that can be made inexpensively and used by 10-14% of all consumers:

  • kitchen knives and utensils
  • stationery (scissors, rulers, pens, geometry sets)
  • notebooks, folders and binders
  • watches (worn on the right arm)
  • computer accessories using USB plugs

Computers are the most egregious example of people’s obliviousness to right hand privilege. I am not talking about hardware, which would require large retooling of factories to make products. I’m talking about software, something which has no physical limitation on how it is produced.

Today, touch screens no longer or rarely use scroll bars. But when they were common such as on PDAs in the 2000s decade, scrollbars were always placed for the benefit of right handed people. There was no patch or option on any device to move scrollbars to the left. In order to use a stylus, a left handed user had to block their own view of the screen. (If you say, “Well, use the stylus in the right hand!”, you have just demonstrated right handed privilege.)  The end of scroll bars does mean the end of the problem.

On all touch screen devices, on e-readers, on facebook and many other websites, to move forward a page or image in a gallery requires touching the side nearest the right hand, Again, this forces left handed users to block their own view of the screen. E-readers were designed to be held one handed (in the right hand) and users tap with their thumb to go forward a page. If a left handed user does the same, the e-reader will go back a page.

Why is there no option to switch this behaviour? This requires changing two lines of code (left=forward, right=back), not rewriting the entire program. (Again, don’t say “use your right hand,” even though I know you want to.) Dozens of hotkeys can be created, deleted and reassigned within most software and browsers, and yet the simplest form of navigation control can not be changed, the form of navigation that needs to be changed for left handed users.


Finally, let’s talk about cellphones, since most people use them nowadays. Last year, before the release of the iphone7, I talked about left handed users of the iphone 3, 4 and 6 getting no reception due to Apple’s poor product design.

Guess what? The iphone7 STILL has this problem, despite Apple being aware of it since 2010, AFTER high profile reports in the media with the iphone6. Apple continues to give the same arrogant response to consumer complaints and news stories: “Use your right hand.”

From Time.com (Sept. 2016), about the iphone7:

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

If you’re left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.

The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user’s left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.

From Mic.com (2016), about the iphone6:

Why Some Left-Handed People Are Having Big Problems With the iPhone

From Engadget.com (2010), about the iphone4:

Some iPhone 4 models dropping calls when held left-handed, including ours (Update: Apple responds)

From Engadget.com (2010), apple’s inept response to the above article:

Apple responds to iPhone 4 reception issues: you’re holding the phone the wrong way

Apple responds to iPhone4 reception issues: you’re holding the phone the wrong way
We know what you’re thinking, and we’re thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit [read: use your right hand – R], or buy one of their cases.

[…]

Update: To add a little perspective, check out a video from 2008 after the break showing the same issue with the now-ancient iPhone3G.

Here’s an easier solution: Don’t buy iphones, then you won’t have that problem.


Android phones aren’t much better. True, there are no reports of poor reception when held with the left hand (including my Asus Zenphone). And android does have a left handed option, ***BUT*** it’s buried deep within the software instead of being readily accessible on the phone’s settings and options menus. You have to jump through hoops to find it:

  1. Open “Settings > About Phone”.
  2. Scroll down to “Build Number”.
  3. Tap SEVEN TIMES quickly to enable developer options.
  4. Go back to Main Settings.
  5. Open Developer Options (not visible by default).
  6. Scroll down, enable “Force RTL layout direction”.

Google says it’s updates “won’t change your settings” but that’s not my experience. More than once my Right-To-Left settings have been switched back to right handed mode.

You Don’t Say: Ableist Language Sucks

Recognizing ableism in language is important. There is no “default and alternative,” and language should never infer, refer or defer to anyone or any group as inferior or superior. The same applies to ableist language and left handedness. It exists, it should be recognized as a problem.

There are some words which cannot be changed, even if they are biased. Not only would no one accede to a different term than human rights, what would we replace it with? But the word right and its usage – ability, correctness, appropriateness, justice, political leanings, morality, possession – all have positive connotations. Only the use of right for political extremism is used in a negative way. (See also: the root -rect- which means right, as in correct, rectangle.)

Compare this with the word left. In nearly every language worldwide, the word left has derogatory meaning or usage: inferiority, weakness error, evil, incompetence, femininity, homosexuality. Most reading this will say that femininity and homosexuality are not things to be ashamed of. Why should any derogatory meaning be attached to the word left?

There are not just negative definitions but also colloquialisms and metaphors:

  • “two left feet”
  • “left handed compliment”
  • “good with the left hand” (Japan: a heavy drinker, an alcoholic)
  • “on the left” (Russia: corrupt)
  • “left luck” (Hungarian: bad luck)
  • “left handed marriage” (an affair)
  • “left handed wife” (a mistress)
  • “left hander” (homosexual)
  • “left hand path” (satanism)

The list of terms used to insult seems endless: awkward, butterfingered, cack handed, cuddy wifter, gauche, graceless, ham-fisted, ham-handed, handless, heavy-handed, maladroit, molly dooker, southpaw, unhandy.

It’s reasonable to ask (but unrealistic to expect) that no connotations be attached to either hand (no more use of right for “good” or “correct”). But it is not difficult to use proper and appropriate (Latin proprius: one’s own, special) instead of right for things that are good and well fitting (e.g. “the proper way” instead of “the right way”).

In Short, Supply: Who sells products for left handed people?

Buying products for left handed people is difficult in a world of right handed privilege. There are fewer disabled people than left handed people, yet only the disabled are catered to by manufacturers. It makes you wonder why.

Below is a compiled list of online stores and vendors which sell left handed products for children and adults. There may be others but I cannot verify if they do or the businesses do not sell online or overseas. I have been told Staples sells left handed notebooks. I also do not buy from Amazon, though their website does list some left handed items. (Amazon refuses to ship to Taiwan by postal mail, I am NOT willing to pay upwards of US$100 for shipping.)

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these companies, do not receive any financial or other benefit for mentioning them.)

Left Handed Specialty Stores

These online stores sell a wide variety of products for left handed people, both for the home, office and school. Not all carry every product.

My left handed kitchen knives have the bevel on the proper side and are a pleasure to work with. I also love watching the faces of guests when I ask them to open a can, them unable to figure out a left handed can opener.

  • educational materials (e.g. books on handwriting)
  • stationery (pens, rulers, folders, geometry sets, etc.)
  • housewares (knives, can openers, gardening tools)
  • watches (the dial on the left of the face)
  • musical instruments and supplies
  • novelty items (e.g. mugs that face a left handed user)
  • entertainments (playing cards for the left hand)

Anything Left Handed, UK

Left Handed Convenience Malaysia

Left Handed New Zealand

Left Shop Online, UK

Lefty’s Australia

Lefty’s Left Handed

Stationery only, various items:

Maped, UK

Notebooks:

These companies sell books with the spine to the RIGHT of the cover, not the left. The left hand can rest comfortably on the table, as right handers do with most notebooks.

Imborrable, Spain  Imborrable also sells brush pens, suitable for left handed use.

RS Paper Products

Rainbow Resource (Yes, it’s a “homeschool” company and run by fundy christians. I include it because there are few sources for left handed materials.)

Pens:

These sites sell many types of pens for left handed use, such fountain pens, space pens and yoro pens, the latter designed specifically for left handed writers. (I have included only sites selling affordable pens. Many fountain pens run into hundreds of dollars.)

Easons

Jet Pens

Pelikan

Pen Chalet

Pen Heaven, UK

Tools To Live By, Taiwan

TTS Group, UK

Printable resources for sale and download:

Left Handed Children.org: Letter formation guide for left handed children  These can be purchased for £3.95.

This Reading Mama: Left-Handed Handwriting Pages  There is a trial (free) and full version (US$5) of printable pages for teaching left handed handwriting.

ABC Teach: Left-Handed Friendly Handwriting Practice Printables Worksheets  While these worksheets are free, they require site membership to download.

Anything Left Handed (see above) also sells a printable guide for left handed handwriting.

Names Named: A partial list of famous and important lefties

The list of famous and important left handed people is long and full of significant names from ancient history (e.g. Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar) to the modern day. It includes some of the greatest minds and achievers in history. The idea that left handedness is an “impediment” to success or accomplishmentis farcical.

There are unproven claims that left handed people have higher IQs and that we make more money. But there is also the fact that left handed people cannot do certain jobs or produce as high a quality of work because equipment is made only for right handed people (e.g. industrial machinery). And don’t get me started on desks in schools and colleges, made solely for right handers….

Scientists:

  • Marie Curie
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Mark Twain
  • Albert Einstein
  • Brian Kerninghan
  • Nicola Tesla

Business people:

  • Bill Gates
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Henry Ford

Artists, Musicians and Writers:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Michaelangelo
  • Wolfgang Mozart
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • H.G. Wells
  • Cole Porter
  • M.C. Escher
  • Lewis Caroll
  • Rembrandt
  • Vincent Van Gogh

Politicians and militarists:

  • Winston Churchill
  • Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Barack Obama
  • Bill Clinton
  • Ronald Regan
  • Herbert Hoover
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Harry Truman

Here are longer lists to gaze at:

Famous Left-Handers by M.K. Holder PhD, U of Indiana

Famous left handers from LeftHandersDay.com

Left Handed Wiki: Famous Left Handers

Biography.com: Famous Lefties

The Guardian: One hundred famous left-handed people

Music Rules: Left Hander’s Day edition

If wikipedia is at all credible (it’s not), the list of famous left handed musicians is lengthy. Other sites also list left handed players. Noticeably most of those well known came from rock, blues, jazz and country, from 20th century popular music. Few classical musicians are reported as being left handed, especially those from the past when children were forced to switch hands. How many there were, we’ll never know.

What are some famous names you can listen to (and whose music I like)? Here’s a selection:

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits: “Sultans Of Swing”

Elliot Easton of The Cars: “Shake It Up”

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath: “Paranoid”

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana: “Breed”

Jimi Hendrix, “All Along The Watchtower”

John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants: “Don’t Let’s Start”

Tim Armstrong of Rancid: “Ruby Soho”

Dick Dale: “Pipeline”

Dave Wakeling of The Beat: “Mirror In The Bathroom”

Gerald Casale of Devo: “Secret Agent Man”

Gerald Johnson and John Massaro of The Steve Miller Band: “Abracadabra”

Ian Paice of Deep Purple: “Hush”

Jazz and rock session drummer Simon Phillips, with The Jeft Beck Group: “El Becko”

Stewart Copeland, The Police and solo; recording as Klark Kent: “Don’t Care”

Elvis Costello: “Pump It Up”

Robert Fripp, solo and with King Crimson: “Sky”

Albert King: “Born Under A Bad Sign”

B. B. King: “The Thrill Is Gone”

Also of importance, Orville Gibson, founder of the Gibson guitar company, was left handed.

(Yes, I am aware that the two surviving members of an overrated English band are left handed. My blog, my music.)

Many left handed guitarists strum with the left hand and fret with the right hand, which I have never understood. The guitar and violin are descended from the lute, a middle age and Renaissance instrument. The lute has many more strings and is primarily played with the right hand plucking the strings. The fretting left hand moves far less than on a guitar or violin. Convention and tradition has turned what was once a disadvantage for left handers into an advantage, like the QWERTY keyboard on the typewriter and computer. Why give that up and reverse the guitar?

Keyboard instruments clearly demonstrate a right hand bias, designed to play the melody of a song with the right, and bass chords and notes with the left. Reversed guitars are readily available, slightly more expensive than standard guitars. Reversed pianos are unheard of, though they could be created with a programmable synthesizer, reversing the order of the notes. The keyboards are symmetrical.

Instruments of more recent origin demonstrate a clear right hand bias. The horn is an ancient instrument, but trumpets with valves date only to the very late 18th and early 19th centuries, when anti-left hand attitudes still dominated, and are exclusively right handed with the exception of the French Horn. The same goes for the sackbut and trombone (16th century instruments), the slide moved with the right hand.

Originally, the straight flute of the Middle Ages and recorder of the Renaissance could be played with either hand at the top or bottom. It was only when its descendants (the flute, clarinet, etc.) were invented that keeping the left hand near the mouth became the norm. Early flutes (the Japanese shakuhachi) were end blown, not held to the side.

Drum kits were a 19th century innovation for orchestras and bands to allow one percussionist to play multiple instruments (very difficult in marching bands). Percussion instruments that play notes have ancient origins, but the low-to-high order on the xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba and bell lyre is from the renaissance. Notes on Jamaican steel drums (or steelpans), however are organized to keep intervals between notes to prevent unwanted harmonics. Many left handed rock drummers (e.g. Stewart Copeland) play a standard kit. It is rare for a drummer to reverse the kit or relocate parts (e.g. Ian Paice’s high hat cymbal).

Real Life Intrudes: Summer sucks edition

Social life? Posting here?  Who’s got time for that?

In my line of work, teaching ESL, summer is often the busiest. On top of our regular work, we teach summer camp classes. Children are on summer vacation from school, and many parents send them to buxibans all day as “day care”. That often means extra classes and working from morning until night.  Add to that the DIScomfort index these past two weeks has hovered around 40°C.

To quote from the Alan Arkin movie Popi (1969): “You know, when you’re not working, it’s terrible.  And when you’re working.  It’s terrible.”


I am extremely peeved that the Taiwan government spinelessly backtracked and allowed indoor smoking to continue.  But this fight’s not over yet, especially after the Reuters expose on tobacco companies illegally influencing governments, their desperate attempts to keep users addicted and create new ones. The person who ran Taiwan’s Health Promotion Agency in 2016 was forcibly removed for misuse of the office. I suspect the same of the current HPA director.

Cancer Sticks: Big tobacco makes Union Carbide look like amateurs

Across the developed world, tobacco addiction is in heavy decline for a variety of reasons – facts about the risks of smoking, education, laws restricting where people can pollute the air, heavy fines for violators (both the addicts and the dealers), concern for people’s health, declining wages, etc. Even in countries that have been filth pits of cigarette smoke (e.g. Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, et al), the trend is the same.

Out of desperation to find new markets, the drug dealers are seeking new markets: Africa and Asia, Indonesia being one of the worst examples.  Which is exactly how the tobacco companies want it.  In the third link (a news item from 2012), the reporter says “There is no minimum age for buying cigarettes. […] Cigarettes are today the number two item of household expenditure, after rice.” [Read more…]

Type Or Write: Putting down words for 150 years

The venerable typewriter is now 150 years old, depending on what you consider its key moment of invention and development.  (Regarding the title, should that be putting up words, since some typewriters use upstrike?)  There are older typing machines than that, but it was the Sholes and Glidden design of 1867 which became the standard, first mass produced in 1868 (although many improvements came later, e.g. lower case text).

Typewriters changed the workplace, changed literature, changed education.  They produced writing that was more legible and faster to produce than handwriting could ever be, allowing writers to express themselves at speeds never before possible with less effort.  (The less laborious work is, the faster and more willing people are to do it – and do more of it.)

The typewriter has also had major impact on the change of language, not just what was written.  For alphabetic languages (Latin, Cyrillic, Hangeul, et al), a 1:1 keyboard assignment was feasible.  For character based languages like Chinese and Japanese, it posed a major problem.

Typewriter historians credit Lin Yutang not just as the inventor of the Mandarin typewriter but also the inventor of predictive text. He placed commonly used characters near each other to make phrases and combinations much easier. He also simplified the organization of Chinese language characters by number of strokes, making it easy for users to find them.

Sugimoto Kyota, inventor of the Japanese typewriter, had a major impact upon his language. Prior to the 20th century, Japanese students learnt upwards of 10,000 kanji (Chinese characters). He chose to limit his typewriter to 2,400 characters he deemed most important (for government, business and legal use). Today, Japanese students still learn about 10,000 kanji, but only about 2,000 are used in everyday life, most of those selected by Sugimoto.

South Koreans still learn thousands of hanja (Chinese characters) and read newspapers written with them.  But in everyday life, only the Hangeul script is needed for school, government or business.

Myself, I hate predictive text and never use it because (a) it rarely chooses the word I want and usually inserts the wrong one, and (b) it uses american spellings.  No thanks.

Is predictive text robbing us of our ability to write?

In China they call it character amnesia – being unable to recall how to write a phrase because you’re so used to autocomplete software. Now it is on four billion phones, and children type before they write, will we still be able to put pen to paper?


[Read more…]

Life Support Cut Off: Dr. Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, dead at 41

A month ago, I wrote a post about World No Tobacco Day.  I didn’t mention it at the time (though I’ve been following the story), but in Australia on May 30th, Doctor Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann was violently assaulted, left in a coma with severe brain damage.  On June 28th he was declared dead and taken off life support.

Why was Pritzwald-Stegmann assaulted by 22 year old Joseph Esmaili?

Because Pritzwald-Stegmann told Esmaili not to smoke in a hospital.

There are many such stories of smokers becoming aggressive, violent and committing criminal acts when told to obey the law or respect rules on people’s private property.

NIH: Cigarette smoking and intimate partner violence among men referred to substance abuse treatment.

This study examined differences between alcohol-dependent offenders of intimate partner violence (IPV) with and without current daily cigarette smoking. Eighty-five alcohol dependent men arrested for domestic and referred to substance abuse treatment were evaluated. A total of 71% of the participants reported current cigarette smoking.

NIH: Effects of cigarette smoking on human aggressive behavior.

Women attacked in Berlin cinema for asking men to stop smoking (June 2017)

Three women were physically attacked and threatened with a knife on Sunday evening when they asked two male cinema-goers to put out their cigarettes.

The two men, both 21 years of age, were sitting in the row in front of the women in a cinema in the Tiergarten neighbourhood when the incident occurred, police report.

But instead of stubbing out their cigarettes, they turned around, hit the women in the face, ripped at their clothes and then threatened them with a knife.

A man who smoked on an airplane and caused a fire midflight received a 9 1/2 years sentence.  He was seen smoking outside the courthouse after the trial.

A Council Bluffs man was arrested for assaulting a woman who did not give him a cigarette.

Passengers on a Pakistan International Airlines flight were blacklisted after smoking on a flight and “misbehaving” with the flight crew.

A passenger on a bus in Wuhan, China stabbed the bus driver after being told not to smoke on the bus.

Youtube: A woman in Israel starts a fire at a gas station after being refused a cigarette

Youtube: A man in Suzhou, China was arrested for assaulting a bus driver who told him not to smoke on the bus

Saitama train conductor assaulted after asking man to smoke in designated area

And the list goes on.  Laws banning cigarettes and private property owners banning smoking are not justification for violence, assault or destruction of property, no matter what smokers think.

Noise Annoys: Summer Sedition

In advance of July 1st and July 4th, I would like to reiterate a point I made last January: noise is a weapon, not a “freedumb”. Noise in general, and fireworks specifically during these holidays, should be restricted, controlled, and prevented when it causes harm to others. People with PTSD, SPD, autism, misophonia, migraines, hearing loss and other conditions are strongly affected by excessive and unpredictable noise.  Animals are also easily terrified, putting them and people around them at risk.  I would also suggest reading the late Niki Massey’s take on fireworks, from July 2016.

From the Center for Hearing and Communication, emphasis mine:

Noise harms more than the ears

“Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

– William H. Stewart, former U.S. Surgeon General

Studies correlate noise with physiological changes in sleep, blood pressure, and digestion, and have linked noise with a negative impact on the developing fetus.

[…]

Noise and mental health

We all know the stress created by unwanted sound. Even noise that may not be at hazardous levels to our hearing can make us tense and angry. Consider how irritating the simple dripping of a faucet can be in the middle of the night, let alone more intrusive noises. Studies have found noise to be associated with increased aggression (Donnerstein and Wilson, 1976) and less helpful behavior (Mathews and Cannon, 1975). Numerous articles in major newspapers have reported noise disputes leading to violence and in England, (August, 1995) the Daily Mirror reported that in the previous six years, 16 people or more were murdered or committed suicide due to chronic noise.

[Read more…]

Canada Celebrates: Our home on native land

On July 1, 1867, Canada gained its independence from England. This Saturday marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation.

Whoop-de-doo.

Call me cynical (I havenever been the flag waving type), but I have a suspicion this Saturday is going to be white history (and immigrants) day, with barely a token mention of First Nations people or what has been done to them. I will be going to the Canada Day event at Hakka Park in Taipei more to watch than participate. The theme seems to be nothing but a party during the day and fireworks at night, no mention of anything historical other than the number.

Resistance 150: Why Canada’s birthday celebrations aren’t for everyone

Many Indigenous people see little reason to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday

The Taiwanese attending the event (along with many non–Canadian foreigners) will likely get the impression it’s a land of immigrants without any mention of the people who were there first. I hope we see sorely needed protests in Canada that mirror those seen at recent pride parades (e.g. Black Lives Matter, Transgender activists).  If anyone dares to physically prevent First Nations protests, they would prove their validity.  Unfortunately, such protests are unlikely to happen here, and worse, discussing it will probably be shouted down, told “this isn’t the time for it”.

When IS it the time?  When no one is paying attention?

Taiwan has its own problems with rewriting history, erasure of indigenous culture and racism and discrimination that it has only started to address in recent years. I was here six years ago during the centenary of the independence from China. There was scarcely a mention of the fourteen indigenous groups (the Taroko, Amis, Bulun, Tayal and Tao, et al). You wouldn’t have known they were here based on the celebrations, it was all about ethnic Chinese immigrants. As I said above, I suspect Canada Day will be much the same.

Discrimination and incorporation of Taiwanese indigenous Austronesian peoples

Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine: The First Nations of Taiwan: A Special Report on Taiwan’s indigenous peoples

Yes, Racism Exists in Taiwan

And in a rare bright spot:

Taiwan Is Reinventing Its Relationship With Its Indigenous Peoples

Bruce Cockburn’s song “Stolen Land” is thirty years old, and things still aren’t much better than when he wrote it.

“Stolen Land”, Bruce Cockburn (1987)

 

From Tierra del Fuego to Ungava Bay

The history of betrayal continues to today

The spirit of Almighty Voice, the ghost of Anna Mae

Call like thunder from the mountains, you can hear them say

It’s a stolen land

 

Apartheid in Arizona, slaughter in Brazil

If bullets don’t get good PR there’s other ways to kill

Kidnap all the children, put ’em in a foreign system

Bring them up in no-man’s land where no one really wants them

It’s a stolen land

 

Stolen land — but it’s all we’ve got

Stolen land — and there’s no going back

Stolen land — and we’ll never forget

Stolen land — and we’re not through yet

 

In my mind I catch a picture, big black raven in the sky

Looking at the ocean, sail reflected in black eye

Sail as white as heroin, white like weathered bones

Rum and guns and smallpox gonna change the face of home

In this stolen land

 

If you’re like me you’d like to think we’ve learned from our mistakes

Enough to know we can’t play god with others’ lives at stake

So now we’ve all discovered the world wasn’t only made for whites

What step are you gonna take to try and set things right?

In this stolen land

Music Rules: Me, homesick? Never.

Saturday, July 1 is Canada Day, and Monday July 17 will mark sixteen years since I left Canada. Unlike most who live overseas, I haven’t been back once.  When I first arrived in South Korea, I assumed it would be a one year experience, that I would go back with some pictures and maybe a few dollars saved.  I didn’t expect it to turn into a whole new life.

Over that time, I really haven’t really been homesick.  I’ve gotten used to living without most things – TV, CBC radio, hockey, etc.  But if there is one thing I regret the loss of, it’s popular music in Canada (*).  Canada is, and always has been primarily a rock music culture (i.e. groups actually play instruments), not a pop culture where everything is made out of regurgitated samples.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if I lived in Japan which is also mostly a rock scene, or South Korea which has a great punk rock and alternative scene with many good bands over the years (despite most people’s impression that everything is kpop).

But Taiwan is definitely a pop country.  Most everything is safe, even “rock bands” like May Day.  Other than Chthonic which aren’t to my taste (the singer is an elected member of the DPP government and human rights activist) and Mary Bites Kerry which are a group I would listen to, there isn’t much played music.  The live jazz clubs would be great if they weren’t filth pits of cigarette smoke.

I was very happy to hear the Canadian band Headstones recently released a new album.  I needed to hear something good, anything good.

(* That, and turnips.  You just can’t get ’em here.)

I Wonder: Why the pinkwashing?

During the LGBTQIA Pride Parade in Chicago on June 21, a pro-Israel attempted to co-opt the parades message of inclusion by inserting a message of exclusion and militarism.  They were told to leave by the parade organizers, which immediately unleashed the usual false accusations of “anti-semitism”.

Chicago gay pride parade expels Star of David flags

Organisers of an LGBT-rights festival in Chicago are being accused of anti-Semitism after they expelled marchers carrying the Star of David.

[…]

In a social media post, the Dyke March said: “This decision was made after [the expelled marchers] repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Dyke March Collective members.”

[…]

In a statement, the Dyke March Collective later accused Ms Grauer’s organistion of “using Israel’s supposed ‘LGBTQ tolerance’ to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine”.

Why are pro-Israel groups and Israel itself so desperate to pinkwash the country and its alleged “acceptance” of LGBTQIA people, desperate to get the world’s LGBTQIA people to take its side?

In part it is a numbers game.  Israel has long offered citizenship to anyone of jewish descent, even LGBTQIA people.  The country is vastly outnumbered in the region.  Increasing the population occupies more land and enlarges the country’s military reserves.

Now I suspect the reason is very different.  Of all the groups in the world that oppose the apartheid state, LGBTQIA people are the one group that cannot be falsely accused of anti-semitism, having been the victims of the same atrocities during World War II.  I’m not referring to blood libel and other repulsive statements which most definitely are anti-semitism.  Rather, I’m speaking of opposition to Israel’s militarism and crimes against humanity (e.g. mentioning that Israel used white phosphorus on Gaza in 2009).  The false accusations of “anti-semitism” can’t stick the way they do with other groups.

Intersectionality is when the oppressed band together to support each other.  Israel is not the oppressed anymore.  It is the oppressor, and Palestinians are the oppressed, which is why their fight for human rights must be supported.  It is not anti-semitism to support equal rights for all groups.  LGBTQIA people are the one group that cannot be falsely accused, which makes saying it all the more important.

Music Rules: Enjoy the day, though not everyone does

To those who have parents deserving of your love, and especially their fathers on June 18th, I offer best wishes to you. Enjoy the day. If they are alive, call and let them know. If they are gone, my condolences and I hope you have a lot of memories.

Queen, “Father To Son” (1974)


However, not everyone feels the same way.

For those who have regrettable parents and families not worth celebrating, I hope the day passes with as few reminders as possible and you find peace of mind. Father’s day and mother’s day can bristle as much to some as valentine’s day or christmas do to others.

The Grapes Of Wrath, “Peace Of Mind” (1987)