Tag Archives: queens university

The wolf is always at the door, reprise.

wolfatthedoorwheel_of_fortune_british_museum_424x560

The wheel of fortune has turned, and as the Covid 19 pandemic spreads, Mika and I watch the chaos unfold around us. The pandemic is bad enough in its own right–just as the flu takes a terrible toll every year–the Covid 19 virus will take a dreadful toll before it runs its course. So far, we are making the best of staying home–we are naturally reclusive, we keep to ourselves at the best of times. It is unlikely that we will be exposed to the deadly virus. We are working from home–Mika works for the federal government at Statistics Canada, and I work in the MacOdrum Library at Carleton University. For the time being, we are drawing our salary and benefits–we accept that we are fortunate. Beyond that, our house is paid for, and we are out of debt and Mika informed me that we have enough in savings to sustain us for a while should one or both of us get laid off.

What concerns us the most is the economic upheaval that will result from the quarantine currently in place. We are among those fortunate enough to have our jobs and full salaries still–for the time being. We are in a comfortable position because of a blend of our efforts and good fortune. Both Mika and I experienced hardship in our lives. I did not land my full-time job at Carleton University until I turned thirty-nine. In the years before I started working at Carleton, I went through tough times. I struggled to get by on temp work and contract jobs–often in return for bum’s wages. I experienced long bouts of unemployment and went on social assistance when I was between jobs. I underwent personal bankruptcy over the Canada Student Loans I had no hope of repaying. Trust me, I tried to repay them, but given my spotted employment record in my thirties, the situation was hopeless. I never gave up. I applied myself during bouts of unemployment, working voluntarily in libraries to keep up my skills as a librarian.

Mika is hearing impaired. He has partial hearing only in his right ear. He was born this way and grew up with this disability. It did not stop him from excelling in school. He went to Queen’s University on an academic scholarship, where he studied mathematics and computer science. He works for Statistics Canada as a programmer. Yes, he applied himself to overcome his disability and had the good fortune to land a full-time job with the federal government shortly after he graduated from Queen’s in 1996. Mika is savvy at financial management too. It is his skill at managing money that ensured our prosperity as a couple. It is his skill and discipline in financial management–he is no spendthrift–that will get us through the crisis.

In our isolation, we have not lost track of the gravity of the situation. On a personal level, we have friends who fear that the loss of employment could lead to the loss of their home. Mika and I increased the wages for an acquaintance we employ to clean our house. We offered him a hand up, and he happily accepted. He was laid off from his day job and is waiting for his Employment Insurance benefits to kick in. Yes, the federal government instituted a guaranteed income for workers–seventy-five percent of their wages and salaries–and bailouts for small business owners who are forced to close for the duration of the crisis. It is like we are passengers on the RMS Titanic. The ship is sinking, and though there are not enough boats for all the passengers, the federal government has at least thrown out a lifeline to offer as many people as possible a chance to survive.

Mika and I are fortunate. We have each other and lots for which to be thankful. We kept the wolf from the door throughout our lives through a combination of our efforts and good fortune. It is distressing to think that the Covid 19 pandemic and the economic crisis it spawned could spell a drastic reversal of fortune for us. However, as I wrote in an essay I published last year: “The wolf is always at the door and you never know what fortune will bring but rather than despairing I accept I am still among the living and intend to live my life to the fullest.” Mika and I will keep our friends and families in our thoughts as we weather the storm. We hope that the current crisis is resolved with as little hardship as possible to everyone across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey and Mika

 

 

When a man does a queer thing, or two queer things, there may be a meaning to it, but when everything he does is queer, then you begin to wonder. ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

dictionary

002 (5)

Geoffrey and Mika in their library.

I cancelled my subscription to what was formerly Huff Post Gay Voices when the editorial director Noah Michelson changed the title to Huff Post Queer Voices earlier this year. Michelson justifies substituting “queer” in place of “gay” on the grounds the “word is the most inclusive and empowering one available to us to speak to and about the community.” (Noah Michelson as cited in OUT) The thinking behind it is people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc. form a “community,” that is they share a collective group identity. Following this train of thought, Michelson asserts “‘queer’ functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few.” (Noah Michelson as cited in OUT) I get that “queer” is used by some as a blanket term for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc., but I heartily disagree with and refute of this point of view. Continue reading

If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. ― Flemming Rose

separatione342d3_ce5f6ee1b725db96bedda2be61c99425

Religion is part of the fabric of Canadian society; Canadians hold a plurality of beliefs. The most recent census data (from the 2001 census) show that Christianity remains the most widely held and practiced religion with Roman Catholics in the majority at 43.2 %. People of non-Christian faiths make up a tiny percentage of the population: Muslims 2.0 %, Jewish 1.1 %, Hindus 1.0 %, Sikhs 0.9 %, Buddhist 1.0 %. Freedom of belief and conscience is enshrined in Canadian law; it is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in section 2 Fundamental Freedoms. That said, it is important to note that religion is a matter of private conscience. Canada is a secular nation-state. There is no state religion in Canada. Religious belief is something one chooses; no one is forcing you to adhere to a particular set of ideas and the rules of any specific religious institution. Issues are arising in the present over the accommodation of religious folk in the secular, public realm of Canadian society. Continue reading

Apologies for the White Privilege. I can’t help it. ― T.J. Bowes

meme-privilegewhite-privilege

It is Christmas morning and I am just in from a morning dog run with my friend and hunting buddy, Jason Quinn, his dog Nos and my dog Hera. As I was driving home, I started thinking about a concept I see used quite liberally in discussions over the blogosphere, namely, white privilege. The term, white privilege, is defined as follows:

the set of societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.). The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white individuals may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice […] It can be compared and/or combined with the concept of male privilege. (Wikipedia)

As a white man from a family with solid working class roots, I can honestly say I never stopped to think about the fact that I have a white skin or that in having a white skin somehow endows with me with privileges that are denied those with a different skin colour. Continue reading

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

66506_483152090378_1731430_nJuno1

In memory of my beloved Juno (May 21, 2008 – August 15, 2012)

“Each of us owes God a death.” So I heard Gwynne Dyer proclaim in an episode of his television series War. Death is a reality; it comes for us all. When I was a small boy I did not understand the reality of death. I remember, I must have been three years old and seeing my grandmother with some old baby clothes and toys she said were my aunt Lonny’s. My impression in seeing this was to imagine that people must grow up, then grow back down to being babies again. I asked my mother if this was so and she corrected me, telling me no, people grow, then they grow old and die. She added that nobody wants to die, but everyone has to. I did not really understand what it meant to die and did not give it much thought until I was a little older, maybe five years old when I asked my mother and father “what happens when you die?” They told me “your spirit goes up,” presumably to heaven. I still did not understand and was a little frightened by the prospect, but decided that must be a long way off so I would not worry about it. Continue reading

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.–Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

ClosetPhoto-By-Salon1

While attitudes toward gay people have changed a great deal for the better in my lifetime, prejudice and stereotypes remain. There is one stereotype in particular that kept me from coming out until later in life: that of the gay man as a predator from whom children must be protected. I am told I am good in my interaction with children and young people. I am gentle and soft-spoken and very easy going, and children generally like me. Because of this, it was suggested that I consider a career in teaching by one of my mentors at Queen’s University. I was reluctant to go into teaching because of this stereotype. I was confronted with this stereotype and the prejudice against gay men as teachers in 1986, the year I graduated from Queen’s. The Chairman of the Frontenac County Board of Education, in commenting on the amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code which added sexual orientation to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, was dismayed that he no longer had any legal grounds to refuse to hire a teacher if he knew he was dealing with an “obvious faggot.” Continue reading

Sapientia et Doctrina Stabilitas = Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times–Queen’s University Motto

522085_528346907180414_1651874656_nqueen's free speech wall5

Mika and I are Queen’s grads. I graduated in 1986 with a B.A. in sociology. Mika graduated in 1996 with a B.Sc. in mathematics and computer science. The years I spent at Queen’s were a lot of fun for the most part. Political correctness was yet to take hold. Frosh week, was a drunken and ribald festival in which we were expected to use vulgarity liberally. I remember suffering quite a culture shock when my mother and father left me on campus. I have never cared for vulgarity personally and until I met with my Gael group later that day I was on the brink of calling and asking them to take me home. Once I was settled into my Gael group, no. 9–our group chant was “Number Nine is doing fine, the rest of you are fucking swine”–I began to feel better and joined in the ribald fun that continued for the rest of the week. Early into my first year at Queen’s, some students organized a game they called “Kill.” The game consisted of players who had completed an entry form giving their address on campus or in the student ghetto. Players were given an information sheet indicating where their victim might be found and to make a kill you used a toy pistol that fired plastic projectiles. To authenticate the kill there had to be a 2-3 witnesses who were acquainted with the victim. I made my first kill before I was gunned down outside my drama class. When you were killed, you gave the information form of the victim you were stalking to your assassin and the game continued. Somehow, in the current climate across college and university campuses, I do not think this game is played anymore. Continue reading